COVID19 has been a horrible disease, but it has caused some positive changes in the workplace. The “work from home” requirement has meant many people have had to change the way they work, often with surprisingly positive outcomes. Some examples …
Bosses must be less controlling. A micro-managing boss is never good but working from home has freed many people from the micro-management. They used to be able to survey the office and see who had “head down bum up” and they cannot do that in a work from home environment. Therefore, for them to maintain any form of total efficiency, they have had to learn to “let go” a little bit.
Voice communication is often more efficient than written communication. I am sure many of us have had to participate in too many zoom meetings / Microsoft Team meetings / Google meet meetings / etc, but the practice of two or three people meetings has really opened up productivity. Communications flow freely and the exchange of ideas is quick and more efficient. Yes, the need to write minutes does slow us down, and the paper trail is not as good, but if the session is recorded then the full benefits can be achieved. I have observed that my students that used text-based communication tools did not do as well as students that used voice-based tools.
Some meetings can be done remotely. If the meeting facilitator can keep the group together and focussing on the same thing, remote meetings can work well. This is a big savings in travel cost. In addition, working from home we are more casual, so the conversations tend to be more casual (and that often raises productivity because participants can relax a little).
Another benefit is … I do not have to fight traffic. My pre-COVID19 life was not conducive to public transport, so I drove. My commute has been reduced from close about 1-hour to a few seconds.
And that means … I get to see the family more. Lunch with the family is now normal.
Naturally there are downsides – and I am going to focus on the non-traumatic ones. For example, when my wife started working from home, she found me to be a more productive IT department than what she could get by phone from her employer.
The temptation to “work late” means we must learn how to turn off. Leaving the office – when the office is at home – requires a different mental disconnect from home and life than physical distance naturally provided.
My internet service provider … well … I had to really read the fine print. The “new normal” has really put extra load on our internet access. I must coordinate with others. For example, I cannot use some remote platform for some heavy-duty computing while someone else is downloading NetFlix. Again, increased and improved verbal communications is the key.
I have also found my patience has improved. Partly because I am experiencing many of the excuses I heard previously that did not apply (did not apply YET is probably a better way to make that statement).
One of the more interesting observations is from my friends that are migrants – they are feeling extra isolated. It is not the issue that we can use technology to communicate with relatives that are 20 hours away by plane – it is that they are 20 hours away by plane and the borders are closed. I expect my findings are not universal. If others have similar experiences to me, then the entire workplace will increase in productivity. Here is hoping significant parts of the “new normal” are better.