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After the crisis, what is the future for work from home strategies?

by Otto van Haaren | April 3, 2020

 

Many management consultants and business experts are advising executives to move their workforce home with laptops until the crisis is over. What they are not saying is that this is now business as usual – the new normal.

Otto van Haaren work from home strategy

Even if the immediate crisis is conquered and the population no longer needs to practice self-isolation, we are not going to see a return to the way that businesses were run in the past. I know, because my company operates successfully with 95% of our team working from home and we have done this for over 15 years.

Look at what is taking place around the world. Governments are building the biggest stimulus packages ever known:

• The homeless are being housed in hotels.

• Banks are not collecting mortgage payments and many people are receiving immediate government payments to help them through the crisis.

• Are you listening to the economists who say there is going to be a ‘V-shaped’ recovery soon?

• Are they living in the same world as the rest of us?

Amsterdam

Everything has changed. Your business needs to react, but things will be different as we emerge from this crisis. Here are a few of my thoughts on what to look out for:

Companies in the cloud: my company is almost entirely virtual, we still have a head office with about 5% of the team based there, but many companies are 100% virtual – Github is a good example. Globally distributed companies with all, or almost all, employees based at home will become normal.
Information Security: this has to become a concern for all employees. Security should not just be managed by a security director. Right now many companies are in a state of chaos and their security is weak – one security leader cannot manage thousands of home-based employees. Criminals will be targeting those weak companies right now. You need a culture of security that permeates the entire organization.
Learning and Training: as companies onboard thousands of workers into their new work from home strategies they are realizing that they can’t train people fast enough in the classroom. A completely different approach is required where we help team members to develop a habit of lifelong learning.
Restart relationships: the employer and employee relationship has to be completely readjusted. Your team is employed because they have the expertise that you need to deliver services to your clients. Don’t treat them like numbers or cells in a spreadsheet. Introduce empathy and understanding into the workplace. This isn’t just a nice thing that your HR team might recommend – if you ignore this because it sounds like a ‘soft’ goal then you will not manage to run a remote or distributed workforce. You can no longer watch over shoulders or call people into the office for a chat – people need to value their employer and likewise.

That’s just a few immediate thoughts, but I haven’t seen many other experts talking about this. They are all focused on an immediate need to start working from home until the crisis is over.

But this crisis is showing that contact center teams are more important than ever. There has been an explosion in the use of e-commerce services and this will only continue in the future. Right now the shopping malls are empty. Do you think we are going to flick a switch and return to how things used to be? Consumer behavior is changing and this sudden shock will force far more rapid changes in the coming months.

Even after the immediate crisis, we are not going back to the business practices of 2019. Start building the corporate culture you need to manage a distributed team right now.

5CA has been doing it for a long time, we know it works. Now everyone else is catching up. This is the new normal.

Photo by Hans Permana licensed under Creative Commons.

OTTO VAN HAAREN

Otto van Haaren is Founder and CEO of 5CA.