Many trends have started to take hold over the past years, first prompted by the internet and solidified by the power and commonplace of laptops and mobile devices.
What was once the mainstay of the office, even printers are now ultra-affordable and common in most households.
This has enabled business to ratchet up productivity to levels only envied by the most optimistic business owner or macro-economist. It was as if the 9-hour workday could be expanded to a 24-hour schedule.
For some it did.
Trend followers discussed the death of work clothes, like business suits, and the mutation of a typical work-week. Did we need these big office spaces, can there be a hybrid of part-time in office/ part time out? Could business really be that flexible?
Then came a little thing called a Pandemic.
When Covid forced the almost immediate change and loss of choice, people could no longer safely travel to work and be in the office with multiple co-workers. The choice was no longer an option and was brought to an almost immediate decision.
The same trend -followers now were put on task to look beyond the pandemic. Out of necessity, many businesses acclimated to a work at home scenario, mostly with success. In an almost seamless fashion customer service kept operating, stocks kept trading, and almost everything was brought to your kitchen tabletop through electronic communication.
Is this the new norm!? Can we actually live and work, and NEVER leave our house? All those wasted hours traveling to work. All that money wasted on office space in expensive skyscrapers. All those taxes paid to live in large city business zip codes. Ahhhhh… to move to the country and still sustain my family…look at those trees! I can buy a horse! No more suits…its blue jeans and flannel for me baby!
Ok, lets come back to reality. I have a rude awakening for you. We are still people. We are the same people today as this past March. So, let’s discuss this realistically and rationally. It starts with: not everyone is the same, and we all still have our own strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies.
Let me just say, in my humble opinion it all started by our parents and the education system.
Not all parents are the same, and many will argue that they are the end result product of THEIR parents. There are exceptions of course, but in the end, if your parents instilled responsibility, timeliness, manners, and discipline…there is a fairly good chance that you got some of that too. If your parents were always late…you probably show up late a lot too. If your parents were neat and orderly, you might have kept your house in pretty good shape as well (this one is probably debateable with some rebels out there …but play along).If your parents were hard-working, you are probably a hard worker too.
If not…you are probably always late, a slacker, live in a pigsty, and have bad credit… (that was a joke)
And now to the education process.
Like a good Marine, the motto seems to be “No one left behind”, at least for grades 1-12. With rare exceptions, the education movement, at least from what I remember, is you will have a “bell-curve”. Its completely normal to be in the middle, and you don’t want to be on the far left. There are as many on the far right as the far left; hence the “bell shape”. The group proceeds from class and year, basically in progression, with a standardized rhythm of expectations. It was pretty rare to see someone held back, and for that matter skip a grade. I will argue that “this one-size-fits- all” drags along below average pupils, flattens the middle, and helps accel the exceptional.
So how do we apply this to todays business and lifestyle changes. As discussed, what happened in your formative years up to your working age probably and arguably had a pretty strong effect on the person you are today. Oh sure, once you are aware, there is no shortage of self-improvement books, courses, mentors and life coaches for you to reset your wiring…but Ill argue even that is not taken up by your “average joe”.
So, what does it take for a person to be able to work effectively remotely? I will argue, it’s the same skill sets, drives, and personality traits that is required of someone to be successful in the first place!
DRIVE & PASSION: While it might be hard to be a customer service person for insurance, car parts, or irate bank customers(who have waited on line to elevator music for 35 minutes, disconnected, and then got through to you) while you were in the office… you might deserve a medal doing it at home.
DISCIPLINE: Again, to watch the latest Netflix and have just one more coffee in your PJs or start calling clients.
ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS: do some errands, clean the house, eat some pizza…or work? Should I shower today? What is today?
WORK ETHIC: Are you the type to leave your work at work…or are you normally answering emails at all hours of the night? If the former…you might have some issues.
Listen, successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people are not. If you look at the very short list above, I will argue that if you interview the top 100 successful people you meet, this list really is never made or even thought of by them. They probably do it instinctively. I will argue that some of us are totally incapable of doing the above consistently and in perpetuity, mainly because its either not in our DNA, we have no desire, or even that we actually need the structure that a workplace environment actually provides, and even mandates. This includes set hours, meetings, dress code, and accountability. Ironically, this was all in place in at least our school years (until university) and maybe in our upbringing. I argue that a large majority of us …NEED this.
I believe the office is not dead…threatened maybe, but I think it will come back. We are social beings at the very least and all those nice fluffy excuses of bouncing ideas off one another and creative thinking might be an ok explanation.
Ironically as I was writing this, my wife tried to lure me away with a downloaded movie at 2:30 pm on a Wednesday. I won’t tell you what time I finished this (wink).