This is a post related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) issue, although not directly. Let me simply say that I hope that everyone is taking the necessary precautions and stays safe. There probably is a long road ahead, so please be careful and be patient. This too will pass, hopefully without too much loss of life.
So where am I going with this? Well, for obvious reasons, as many people as possible have been told to work from home until the spread abates. This makes obvious sense. What doesn’t make obvious sense is why more companies haven’t let their employees who work essentially with a laptop do this for years. It is obvious to me that many jobs can be done remotely for the most part, but there are few positions like this available in the US (and I know because I have been trying to get one of these for a few years). In fact (and some of you know this), I was released from my last job because the condition for keeping it was relocating to the location where my boss sat (which was different from the location where I sat and was totally unfeasible for me). The sad part of this was that I had been at a different location that my bosses for over 10 years and had performed my jobs more than adequately (if performance appraisals are to be believed). Besides, in most medium and large companies (especially ones which have multiple sites), the majority of meetings are teleconferences. Sorry for the rant, but I didn’t write this post to vent (OK, maybe a little). I wrote this to point out the many benefits of having many a lot more remote positions (I’d say they were obvious except for the fact that if they were, I wouldn’t be writing this). The benefits as I see them:
– potentially a lot less congestion on the roads. And theoretically, the reduced time on the road could lead to more time for work and less stress (not having to fight the traffic).
– it would be beneficial to the environment due to the reduced combustion of fossil fuels
– would allow for flexibility for child care. Companies may not believe this, but it is possible to perform you job at home if there are kids in the house, especially if the kids are not babies
– likely, many more people with disabilities and /or handicaps could be significantly more productive
– if we had been implementing this practice for the last 5 – 10 years, business would certainly be interrupted less during crises like this one.
So my question is the following; will we learn from this with regard to remote working? Generally, once we recover from situations like these, we go back to business as it was before the situation/crisis. We often don’t seem to learn very much of anything. For example, after the financial crisis in 2007-2009, we placed some rules on big banks to rein in predatory loans and risky investments. Since then, many of these rules have been reversed. We haven’t seemed to have much of a reaction to the extreme weather events which are likely to have some connection to global warming. At most, some people acknowledge it, and we move on. I am hoping that we learn many things from this unfortunate crisis. One thing I hope we do learn is the value of working remotely. It’s time the American workplace enters the 21st century, and this would be one step in the right direction.