Other than news about the virus itself, perhaps no other subject has taken up more headline space over the past six months than the debate about working from home. Are employees more or less productive? Will we ever go back to work the way we did pre-pandemic? Should you keep your existing office space footprint or reduce square footage? How do we keep people safe when they do come to the office? The list of topics goes on and on and on.
First, let’s be clear that no one knows what the future holds on this subject any more than executives and business leaders know about the future of any subject. We are all in the game of speculation and strategizing.
However, there are some troubling fundamentals to this debate that I believe transcends talk of the pandemic and worker safety. Much of the debate comes down to trust. Do employers truly trust that their employees are putting in an honest day’s work and effectively navigating the many potential pitfalls that come with working from home (kids, pets, partners, and spouses also trying to work)? Do employees trust that their employers are going to keep them safe and healthy should they return to work, or is their primary focus on the bottom line? The pandemic has brought this schism in mutual trust to the forefront, but almost no one is dealing with it head-on. To think that once we are all working in the post-COVID era these issues of trust will magically resolve themselves is foolish.
We are clearly moving into a new era of business that will likely be as disruptive as the move from the Industrial to the Entrepreneurial. As with all shifts in eras, this one will require a fundamental rethinking of norms and the unexamined assumptions that shape popular thought. Just as before, those that emerge from this shift having unshackled themselves from many of those deeply held beliefs and re-invented the rules of the game will win.
What fundamentals do you need to rethink about your business in the post-COVID era?