There are a lot of fallouts from Covid-19, once we have the vaccine(s) and things start heading back towards some kind of normal (whatever degree of pre-pandemic behaviour that might turn out to be).
One of the ones I am most curious about is the Working-From-Home (WFH) phenomenon. How much of that will stick, and how will it pan out, once it’s not a 100% necessity anymore?
WFH policies after the pandemic will be made difficult by two things: A plethora of ways people have administered it during the pandemic, and employers inability to dictate what employees in reality do when they’re out of sight.
It is going to be a ton of ‘fun’, and I don’t think it will be possible to go back to the old ‘command-style’ model of employment in the past, where employers could just belch out orders and employees would comply – few questions asked (but unlimited eyes rolling behind the managers back).
Personally, I have never been a big fan of top-down orders. But on the other hand I don’t think we’re suited to too much independence, if we are to achieve great things as teams, companies and society as such. So what to do?
Deutsche Bank has circulated an idea to tax WFH due to the associated decrease in costs by not using commuting services, lunch on the go etc.
I think the idea is stupid and not the way forward. Frankly, it’s the kind of idea that a bank would come up with.
What we might be looking at instead is qualifying people for WFH privileges.
Instead of just sending people home and letting them decide for themselves, we might need to make sure they have the skills and the mindset to make it on their own, before we let them. Have them spend some time in the office, delivering on their tasks, cooperating with the team etc before moving to a more flexible schedule.
The concept is not new. It’s basically the cornerstone of bringing up children. As a parent, you don’t let your kid go to school on her own, before you’re absolutely sure she can handle herself in the bustling traffic.
It’s not only about trust. It is also about having routines and the experience to ensure that you can still perform, no matter where your team is located.
I fully realize that there are a lot of companies that already operate remotely, and are very good at doing that. My point is just that there is a difference between being born this way and having to learn and adapt to it.
Most fall into the latter category (no, your company is not Automattic), and it is those it will be interesting to follow, as Covid-19 transforms back into a ‘new’ normal.