It's no surprise that the topic on everyone’s minds over the past week has been the fate and future of modern business. After all, with so many people now being asked to work from home, the office environment as the world knows it is rapidly changing in real time—taking on a whole new meaning, and a whole new set of challenges.
However, aside from the realities forced upon many businesses this past week—having to dramatically accelerate the adoption of remote connectivity practices—is this new environment really that surprising? For several years now we as a global society have all been inundated with messages surrounding Digital Transformation, ubiquitous connectivity, mobility, Unified Communications, the approaching 5G data technology, and much more. All of which alludes to the concept of "The Future is Now.”
Well, the "now" is actually now.
Though many companies around the world have already embraced this type of infrastructure, many held off feeling that the complexity was too much to tackle. Now, in a time of need that has been forced upon everyone, the mass adoption has been quick, and for some painful, but still achievable.
As millions of people moved to a home office this past week, one distinct and positive message has rung out around the world: modern business rooted within the global knowledge-based economy didn't go anywhere. It’s still here and still flourishing even though it’s a fast and somewhat bumpy road as people settle into their new work environments.
So, what does this really mean for the future of business? First, business hasn't ended, it has merely migrated to a virtual space. And with that, the question that immediately comes to mind is "What does the office have to do with business going forward?”
To be clear, that's not a question meant to elicit a specific answer—we should all ask ourselves that question and truly think about the ramifications, calculating the positives and the negatives.
For instance, as it relates to Unified Communications, there are far too many benefits to calculate. Whether productivity due to the lack of what I like to refer to as "water cooler chat,” to reduced overhead through downsizing office environments, and more, the list of positives will outweigh the negatives with impacts that are far reaching worldwide. When even the reduction of automobiles on the road due to work-from-home is showing positive environmental impacts—the results of all of this will only continue to play out over time.
But, it also then begs the question of the potential negatives: mostly relating to work culture and how old habits will need to be addressed. It is often said that most people don't like change. And given that the office environment with all its related business practices has not seen significant advances in the past 80+ years, the cultural shift in how organizations and people are managing is going to be a tough hill to climb—at least for a portion of the working population.
The tradition of daily office attendance, face-time, and seeing people all working diligently at their desks is at the heart of many businesses—relating to everything from perceived productivity, social and cultural interactions, all the way through to Human Resources practices, and more. So what happens to all of those things as people move out of sight? Surely it can't mean they are also out of mind? Of course it doesn't.
The reality of remote workers is really nothing more than the implementation of modern Unified Communications technology, paired with a new outlook based solely on productivity and accountability. As mentioned, though some organizations may need to shift traditional themes to account for work-from-home / office absenteeism, the result will still be skyrocketing productivity.
In all, we all have to be safe during this brief time in our history—ensuring that those that are vulnerable to illness remain healthy. However, the impact of this should be seen as a giant leap forward for our world, creating an exciting new future. This isn't the end of the world, it's just the beginning.
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