These are uncertain times; infection rates are growing exponentially, and countless people are losing their income and being forced to rely on Government assistance, often for the first time in their lives. For those of us that remain employed, a great stillness is descending on our cities and suburbs as we all heed the call to stay indoors.
It is difficult to see our way forward in the face of overwhelming heartache and we could be forgiven for taking the 21st century spin on the classic Rip Van Winkle approach, sitting on our couches, chilling and watching Netflix until we are allowed out in the great big wide world again.
Naturally in these uncertain times many of us will initially take that route, however there is an emerging view that the social distancing requirements offers us all a transformational opportunity to change the way work forever. Redefining work from being the place you go, to the outcomes you deliver.
Our access to communicate with each other virtually and our willingness to try an alternative way of working, has never been greater. COVID-19 offers us the opportunity of transformation not experienced since the first Industrial Revolution, when people left their rural way of life, their homes and their villages to head to big cities, to gather for work
Since then, despite the many mini industrial revolutions and our technological advances, most of our workforce continue to leave their homes each day and go to work. In 2019 the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) reported a significant increase in formal flexible working arrangements being offered to employees, however before the COVID-19 crisis, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that a little more than 30% of full time employees regularly worked from home, (Including those who took work home in the evening).
Though debate has raged over the past few years about the benefits of remote working, numerous studies such as Felstead and Henseke1 have shown that it does promote greater work life balance, increased job satisfaction for employees and Shana2 illustrates increased productivity for employers.
Even before our current health crisis, working from home was already becoming a real alternative for many in the workforce. Now, with the movement restrictions Imposed by many Governments around the world as a consequence of COVID-19, remote working is the only game in town.
During the past few weeks there has been an explosion In articles about remote working, the do's and don’ts, creating successful meetings, ensuring employee and team connectivity, in essence a cheat sheet of getting through the next few months. Consider for a moment, could this be the catalyst for transformative change in the way we work?
We do not know how long these shutdowns will go on, and one can only watch so much Netflix.
We have been gifted a once in a lifetime opportunity to fundamentally change the way we operate. We have been gifted time and patience to learn these new ways of working, of communicating and delivering on outcomes.
We literally have come almost full circle, to a time where we stayed in our homes and in our communities and our work was focused on outcomes, on what was delivered, not how much time was spent in the office or in a meeting.
If there is any benefit in our current crisis let it be COVID-19 provided the spark for our Virtual Transformation.
1. Felstead, Alan, Henseke, Golo 2017/10/04 “Assessing the growth of remote working and its consequences for effort, well-being and work-life balance” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/ntwe.12097
2. Shana, Lynch 2017, June 22 Graduate School of Stanford Business https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/why-working-home-future-looking-technology