At the beginning of the 20th century, the advent of home appliances changed the role of women forever. Instead of wrestling with a washboard all day, they could bung clothes in a machine and let it do all the hard work for them. It resulted in a profound change in women’s position in society, freeing them up to pursue careers, just like men.
Work-From-Home Tech Is Pushing A Big Change In Lifestyle
When you think about it, this revolution is quite incredible. From something as simple as a washing machine came a fundamental change in the economy’s structure, with millions of new people employed.
We’re likely looking at a similarly monumental shift today. The coronavirus forced nearly half of all workers to do their jobs from their homes. And it is only possible because of the tremendous developments in digital technology over the last decade. Are we looking at a fundamentally different way of working due to technology? Might the cloud render the traditional office obsolete?
Lifestyles Are Changing
Even before the current public health crisis, employees were pushing for flexible working options. Many wanted the ability to work from home or go into the office at a time of their choosing. Social distancing has made office working all but impossible – at least for the time being – and now many workers are benefiting from radically improved schedule flexibility. Bosses aren’t keeping an eye on them all day long, making sure that they’re sat productively at their desks doing work. Instead, they’re free to take the kids to school or do the shopping as and when they please. Outside of the obligatory Zoom morning meeting, there is little structure in their schedules.
Whether the traditional office will return remains to be seen. Many people believe that the pandemic will reveal that its days are numbered, especially given the technologies like social networking and the cloud. But there are still some enthusiasts that believe it will continue. They point to the fact that companies were willing to spend millions on expensive offices before the pandemic, even though the technology existed to allow employees to work from home. The same factors that were driving that, they say, will continue into the future.
But what are those factors? Well, the primary concern is that workers just aren’t as productive when they’re at home. There are more distractions – and they’re not in a place of work. It is hard for them to be strict with themselves when they can sit back, put their feet up, and turn on Netflix whenever they like.
There are also networking problems. Bosses continue to believe that messaging apps and video calling services are a substitute for in-office meetings, not a rival. Typically, they see them as less effective for the transfer of knowledge and ideas. And so paying a premium for downtown office spaces seems worth it.
Whether there is any evidence for this remains to be seen. Firms are going to have to make observations on a case-by-case basis and analyze their own experience. Some might find that productivity goes up, while for others, it could be flat. In these cases, it makes sense to continue working from home, using the technology that we have today.
Working From Home Fits Digital Transformation Objectives
Many companies are currently involved in enterprise digital transformation. This process mainly comprises making use of present and near-future technologies in business. Examples include things like using AI to power customer service chatbots and transferring computer networks to the cloud, managed by third-party agencies.
Interestingly, though, working from home is an important part of the notion of digital transformation because it provides firms with a way to reduce their resource footprint. Twenty-first-century firms want to be profitable, but they also care about sustainability. They want to ensure that the effect that they have on the environment is as small as possible.
Communication technologies, therefore, are playing a significant role in company decision-making. It is far less resource-intensive to have people work from home than getting everyone to an office. There’s the cost of transportation, not to mention the running of the office itself. There’s also the time that people spend commuting, and the drain that it puts on their bodies and minds. People usually work more effectively when they are well-rested and relaxed, not stressed out of their minds after a long stint on the subway.
Technology May Change Our Lifestyles Forever
The idea that we should work in a big building together is very much a nineteenth-century invention. Production lines attempted to bring large numbers of workers together to improve efficiency and increase overall output.
Before then, people worked separately, either in cottage industry or working the land. They didn’t commute or travel to a place of work. Their home was their work. The idea of working from home today sounds a little strange because we got used to the nineteenth-century model. Just as that was a product of changing technology, so is the current shift in working patterns. It seems new, but it might be humanity returning to its roots.
The vast majority of people now work in the knowledge economy. They don’t need machines or equipment to create value. Instead, they simply spew the contents of their heads, which is enough to earn their keep. Lawyers and accountants are both excellent examples of this idea in practice.
Massive office blocks and complex transportation systems, therefore, seem like unnecessary overhead. If you can get 45 percent of people working from home, you’ve essentially solved the pressure on infrastructure and saved a vast quantity of resources. You can then plow all of that back into high-value projects and investments.
Digital transformation, therefore, is coming to the workplace. It is likely to result in changes that are as profound as those which occurred with the advent of home appliances—the hordes of commuters who once packed trains may become a thing of the past. Workers won’t want it for the most part. Coronavirus is just accelerating the digital transformation that was already underway throughout the economy.