Or IBM stopping all domestic travel for meetings.
Or Twitter encouraging all of its employees to work from home to prevent spreading the virus.
“I know this because a few years ago, when I was still working in London and managing a team of eight journalists, my former employer deliberately moved to an office that had fewer desks than it had employees, thus forcing us to adopt a system where several members of the team were always working from home. It was a shrewd business move as the company saved vast amounts on its city centre rent”.
“Fortunately, my employer made another shrewd business move the previous year by introducing the excellent communication tool, Slack – think of it as a professional version of Whatsapp – the place where everyone said “morning” to their colleagues. It was also the place where files were shared, video meetings where held, and importantly, office gossip was spread”.
And finally, at the end of the day, it was the place where everyone said: “that’s me for the day, speak to you tomorrow”.
Without this one piece of software, where 99% of our work conversations were organically happening even in the office, I’m not sure we could have made it work.
From an employee’s perspective, there are obvious perks. There’s no commute. You get to wear comfy pants, or even your pyjamas, for the entire day. You suddenly have all the time in the world to do your laundry. And your lunches improve tenfold.
What’s even more surprising: you become more productive than ever. That job that you used to stretch out for an entire morning will only take an hour at home.
Better still, the quality of your work didn’t suffer. The opposite. The lack of office distractions, you simply mute Slack when you’re busy, means you’re able to dedicate your full attention to the task in hand.
Surprisingly, remote working worked from a management perspective too. You continued to give your team their daily and weekly tasks, as usual. And your team continues to get them done, as usual.
Overall productivity, rightly, becomes the thing that matters most.
All of the above, I imagine, is what Microsoft, Google, IBM and Twitter (and maybe your company too) will be experiencing in the next couple of weeks (and more).
So why hasn’t working from home been adopted more? Surely, companies would jump at the chance to save money from city centre office real estate?
Perhaps it’s because of something Steve Jobs once said: “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”
It’s hard to argue with that. I agree that creativity and business need to be face-to-face (at least to some degree).
However, I’d also wager that if companies are forced to implement remote working strategies in the coming weeks, they’ll soon find out that remote working (to some degree) is very doable.
They’ll also see an improvement in employee morale and productivity, and they might even be able to save some money on office space too.