Is COVID-19 The Best Test Case For Working Virtually or Remotely?

Aug 11, 2020

I’ve been watching the white-collar business world spin off its axis since COVID-19 hit. Employers everywhere scrambled to send their workforce home with enough of what they needed to keep business running. So it’s understandable to ask, “Is COVID-19 the best test case for working virtually and remotely”?

I’ve watched with wonder and curiosity – How will this impact the way we do business going forward?

I’ve also watched with considerable compassion – Feeling the pain of people struggling to navigate the integration of their work and home life for the first time… all the while dealing with the stress of the pandemic AND dealing with every member of their family also being home with them.

 

My Perspective

I have a unique perspective based on my own professional experiences. I’ve been working from home since 2001. My commute from “home” to “office” is a few steps downstairs into my designated work-space. For nearly 20 years now, I’ve worked exclusively virtually.

The term ‘Virtual Assistant’ wasn’t widely known when I became a Virtual Assistant for real estate agents. In 2008, I developed my program to teach other women (and a few men) how to be successful Virtual Assistants (and Virtual Experts®), running successful businesses from their homes. Before that, I had a nearly 20-year career in corporate America. (Yeah, I’m getting old.)

For all these years, I’ve been promoting the benefits of employees, Virtual Assistants, Virtual Experts®, and freelancers working from home. I’ve also been listening to corporations state over and over again that there was no way they would let employees work from home.

 

Then Came Covid-19

When Governors across the U.S. shut down businesses or had them send their employees home to work (if/when possible), I had the opportunity to continue business-as-usual. I already had a designated spot in my home without distractions, complete with an office chair and desk.

My computer, internet, and software applications, which make doing my work possible, effective, and efficient, were all in working order. I was already familiar with how to troubleshoot my tech issues and attend remote meetings. My calendar was set-up.  I had the ability to be as flexible, as needed.

Productive virtual team meetings and collaboration were certain. Measuring the success of a particular project or initiative, even while segregated at home and largely working independently, was not new.

 

Companies

The majority of the labor force was sent home to work, without a practice in place. But it could have been if companies had been proactive and forward-thinking about the benefits of working remotely.

Some companies didn’t have enough hardware and software to allocate out to each employee. I know people who are using their own computers or laptops to perform their work and access their companies’ networks. That by itself is a liability and security concern for both employer and employee. It was nearly impossible for people to perform work from home using the internet since other businesses hadn’t gotten” into the cloud” yet,

Depending on the residing location of employees, internet connectivity might be poor. Depending on how technically savvy the employee, the effectiveness of now having to go 100% digital in all ways and without IT support, has been stressful.

Managers and team leaders are trying to determine how to account for their employees’ time and performance when they can’t see them at their desks. Employees are trying to figure out how to keep doing what they always do while feeling like they have fewer resources and less time.

Plus, employees are physically uncomfortable. Without a reason to set-up a home workstation before, people began working from kitchen tables or the couch. The source of income now emerges from the family computer or laptop. Attention to keeping the children and partner’s hands away is taxing.

They’re feeling isolated. Before, employees were in an office with colleagues’ desks surrounding them. Or offices lined up that they passed by regularly and popped into for a quick chat on their way to the break room for more coffee. Now, they might be at home with their family or they might be home by themselves entirely. Either way, it’s not the same as the shared understanding and camaraderie of the workplace that they are used to.

The accidental remote worker is not loving these work conditions or circumstances. The new work conditions are stressing the remote worker. And living in a pandemic is stressful enough.

 

Is COVID-19 the best test case for the successfulness of working virtually and remotely?

People everywhere are talking about whether remote working is the way of the future. I think we have all known for a long time that it is. There have been huge increases in the number of remote workers over the last decade. But right now, because of the volume of people working from home, researchers and journalists and economists want to assess and measure the effectiveness and predict its impact on the way we do business.

 

Except, COVID-19 is not the best test case.

Companies sent employees home out of panic. Out of required government mandates. There was no time for a plan. No concerted preparation.  When asked to send their workforce home while keeping the business running, there weren’t enough reserved resources to truly respond.

And while employees have been faced with overcoming the challenges of working at home for the first time, they also face fear, anxiety, and stress about the health of their families, their access to consumables that are flying off the shelves, and all of the other things they are having to learn how to do, cope with and manage for the first time.

While COVID-19 may have forced our hand to consider a new way of doing business, these are unusual and extreme circumstances. Because of this exceptionalism, the white-collar workforce going viral should not be graded.

If given time to appropriately plan and outfit their workforce, we can have successful virtual businesses, successful employees and contractors, and a new way of doing business that will be prepared for anything else that may come in the future that none of us could ever predict. If that happens, we’ll be a little more ready and a little better off.

 

Want to ensure that you never have to go back to an office? Learn how to create your own successful Virtual Assistant and Virtual Experts® business, subscribe to my YouTube channel. Like and comment on this video while you’re there.

 

Credit for footage used in video:

MK Local News And Awareness. UK 3-Live New York Governor Cuomo Holds Coronavirus Briefing mTdSh em7 | 3 is licensed under creative commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Based on work at https://youtu.be/vcTAZEwmgqM

 Governor Jim Justice-Gov. Justice holds press briefing on COVID-19 response. June 8, 2020 is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Based on work at https://youtu.be/2iKanA40SmQ

 Wyoming PBS. Governor Mark Gordon’s Press Conference on COVID-19. May 1, 2020. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Based on work at https://youtu.be/O0pxMXxLYPY

 

 

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