Earlier this year, COVID-19 profoundly changed corporate America. Working in a commercial office space quickly transitioned into telecommuting from home.
And while it was easier than most people would have ever imagined to transition employees to work remotely – executives are now questioning whether this set up is actually working.
In an article recently released by the Wall Street Journal, executives and corporate heads are seeing real cracks emerge from the work-from-home world. While it remains a necessary safety protocol, many executives and corporate leaders are seriously concerned about the long term impacts of this new normal.
In this article, we summarize some of the main concerns expressed by management – and few may actually surprise you.
Projects take longer to complete
The level of productivity of at-home workers varies immensely. Some thrive in their home offices, while many others struggle with distraction. But regardless of personal preferences, all at-home workers share the same handicaps that impede productivity, such as slower access to files, logistical issues, and conferencing issues. But the biggest problem? Getting the necessary input from team members often requires additional time.
“Problems that took an hour to solve in the office stretched out for a day when workers were remote,” said one Chief Executive.
Hiring, integrating and training new employees is more complicated
When a new employee was hired in the pre-COVID world, you could simply send the new recruit to your Human Resources department to fill out the appropriate paperwork and meet their new coworkers. On-boarding employees electronically raises an issue of privacy and/or security, remote training is less effective, and new employees feel less connected.
As one executive explained, “It is taking longer for the new employee to understand what’s happening.” And in the corporate world, time equals money.
Less collaboration and cohesiveness is resulting in inferior work
Even with weekly or daily conference calls, the lack of personal interaction with other team members is taking a toll. Employees are noticing less potential for spontaneous interactions (KEEP LINK PLEASE) and that means less ingenuity and stunted evolution of thought.
There is no doubt, proximity makes collaboration easier. As one employee realized when she finally returned to her office, she was soon having conversations with peers that wouldn’t have happened in a remote set up—such as a discussion sparked by a passing question in the hall. These conversations of opportunity simply don’t exist remotely.
Stunted professional growth
Younger or new-to-the-field employees are no longer able to learn new skills and habits from watching and listening to their seasoned team members. Now, with each person working in their own home office, the less experienced employees are missing access to crucial interpersonal interaction. While the situation doesn’t prohibit professional growth altogether, it does impede it.
As one executive noted, “I am concerned that we would somehow believe that we can take kids from college, put them in front of Zoom, and think that three years from now, they’ll be every bit as productive as they would have had they had the personal interaction.”
So should you keep your commercial office space?
Given COVID-related guidelines, few companies expect remote working to disappear any time soon. But we are seeing a significant shift from the early days of the pandemic.
The work-from-home honeymoon is over, and as one corporate president explained, “You can tell people are getting fatigued.” In fact, many are getting the sense that the work-from-home environment is simply not sustainable. As a result, many companies envision the future encompassing a combination of at-home and commercial office use.