“Life is never going to be the same. Business is never going to be the same.”
Recently, I have been hearing these statements from several different organisations. Industries like building and construction, who were thriving in years past, are now beginning to feel the pinch from COVID-19.
My family and I recently took a trip to Sydney. My daughter’s painting was blown up and displayed as a visual merchandise piece for the Louis Vuitton Flagship store and Australian headquarters in George Street. Being from Victoria, people made jokes about our recent COVID-19 spike; I quickly responded with, “Our family is from Geelong, not Melbourne.”
While in Sydney, my family took some time out to visit my cousin. He has been running a hair product business for the past ten years, selling his products in Woolies. In the last few years, he has grown his business to a comfortable, controllable size, all out of his home office with just a few employees. A decade before he started his own business, he worked 20 years in the corporate world and still holds solid relationships in that sector.
Over a beer and champagne, he shared a recent conversation he had had with an old friend.
“A lot of companies are scared to send their workers into the office, so Sydney is dead,” he said. “They have also realised they don’t need offices, so the streets and roads are empty. Real estate in Sydney is opening up and companies are looking to slash that expense now, because COVID-19 has shown that people can work alone, by themselves at home, with the same outcome.”
“Good for us,” I said. “Driving around Sydney has been a joy. It took us 15 minutes to get here.”
I finished my beer and my cousin graciously hopped up to get me another one. I pondered in-between drinks: why would a business not operate like this in the past?
Currently, I am working from home, as many of you are. I spent the last few years before Hook Media working in sales and marketing, selling B2B and B2C, for businesses that required in-person staff to complete the job.
Not all tasks can be completed remotely, of course. However, if a role relies heavily on software and communication can be delivered through video platforms, there’s no reason it can’t be done. Of course, it has taken an epidemic for business to trust their employees remotely.
To answer this thought, I turned to the British-American author of Find Your Why and motivational speaker Simon Sinek’s interview on Inside Quest.
In this interview, Sinek talks about a waiter who was serving coffee to him at a hotel. The waiter was so chirpy, gliding across the room, happy-as-larry. Sinek tipped the man $5 for a five-dollar coffee, and asked: “Do you like working here?”
The waiter replied instantaneously, “Yes.”
Sinek then asked, “Why?”
The waiter responded quickly again: “Because, at this hotel, they check in with me to see if I need anything. I also work at another hotel, where they check in all the time as well, but they do it to make sure I am doing my job correctly — I loathe it.”
In the interview, the audience laughs and Sinek continues to talk about identifying the moment of love (which is a whole other topic).
I paused the video. Of course, a happy worker is a productive worker.
Then, needing to return back to writing this blog, I thought to myself, does this mean an unhappy worker feels like a trapped worker? Does business truly believe employees love driving over an hour to work in thick traffic? Reprimanded for being three minutes late (this has happened to me in the past)? Forced to ‘pretend to work’ because there is no work to do?
Seriously? Do they?
An unhappy worker is a productive worker? I don’t think so.
Working from home does have its distractions when the family are also at home. However, once one has a deadline, it is difficult to fudge results. The reality is that working from home is a balancing act, and if one has a healthy, active and humorous family (like mine), then working from home is a joy. A challenge, yes, but, a pure, loving pleasure.
Yes, I am the first to admit that home-schooling for four weeks was the most significant challenge in 2020; however, this was a transition period, and honestly, if home-schooling returns, lessons learnt from the previous period will be installed.
The change that is coming — or for many, is here — will deliver a new lifestyle. There are parts which one may not enjoy, and there will be new challenges. For business, remote working is appreciated by 70 per cent of employees. They are happier working from home and not working the clock through a graveyard of traffic.
Ask yourself: are my employees happy with their work — is it challenging — does it create a path for growth and, more importantly, are they supported?
It is not a question of are they doing the work but a question of them being treated like human beings and not merely a human doing.