Virtual Offices: Reclaiming Quality of Life Through Technology After Covid-19
What would you do with an extra hour each day, two hours, even four hours? Many people would spend more time with their families, engage more meaningfully in their hobbies, and create opportunities to share time with their communities. Some would volunteer for public benefit charities that matter to them, or take on piecemeal work for added income.
Organizations should re-evaluate their measures of employee productivity
This is the question that should be top of mind for organization leaders as we endure the disruption created by the Covid-19 virus. Employers and employees alike will notice that white collar work will continue apace, and that remote work enables productivity and, in fact, supports results-oriented management. Rather than measuring a person’s value by the time s/he spends in an office chair, milestones and project completion are the appropriate tools to evaluate performance in virtual offices. Setting appropriate goals without micromanaging methods improves employee health while achieving greater results for the organization.
The time of mindless, industrialized, paper-pushing has ended -- and Covid-19 is creating a natural opportunity for organizations to make a much needed transition. There is no debate that employee satisfaction is directly related to employee productivity. Happy employees are more than 20% more productive. Moreover, the current lack of employee fulfillment stymies organization growth and development. Gallup reports that 85% of employees are working below their potential, which impacts organization productivity and personal growth. A transition to employee-centered work based on milestones and project deadlines can give employees the opportunity to be creative and forward-thinking, to arrange work around their life needs, and to build greater productivity for the organization.
Virtual offices are the environmentally responsible alternative
Reports about the environmental benefits of the Covid-19 disruption are astounding. In China, nitrous dioxide (NO2) is estimated to have dropped 40%, along with other air pollutants. New York saw a 28% drop thus far, San Francisco saw a 40% decrease, and Italy is seeing clearer waterways in iconic cities like Venice. In the face of what is now acknowledged as a worldwide environmental climate change crisis, these major decreases in emissions demonstrate, in part, that fewer vehicle trips to work can have a significant positive impact.
A large-scale movement to virtual offices would significantly impact the total vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. More than 40% of jobs in the United States are white-collar, professional jobs. With each of those employees traveling one-hour round trip, they create a significant volume of unnecessary traffic. Perhaps worse, traffic congestion in the U.S. wastes 3.3 billion gallons of fossil fuels per year. This isn’t to say, of course, that all of those trips will be eliminated. Some face-to-face business meetings will need to occur, and trips for site monitoring, for instance. However, eliminating just half of those trips would reduce the work-related traffic by 20%.
Virtual offices are the socially responsible alternative
Beyond the environmental benefits, there is significant social value in reducing the miles each employee must travel to serve your organization. The 2019 Urban Mobility Report found that the nationwide cost of gridlock is $179 billion per year. On an individual level, it costs the average commuter 54 hours and $1,080 each year. And that doesn’t include the regular average commute time of 26 minutes each way. Thus, the average employee is unproductive for five hours each week just trying to get to and from work. In addition, the costs of that commute are compounded by the time the employee gets to work. A commute of more than ten miles each way has been linked to increases in health problems, including high blood pressure, back and neck pain, and compromised cardiovascular fitness. And when the employee does arrive at work, that commute may cost the organization -- up to $90 billion per year nationwide in lost productivity. Virtual offices can give employees time and health, while saving organizations money and reducing overall healthcare costs.
Moreover, virtual offices reduce the amount of commercial real-estate that is draining your bottom line, which could otherwise be used for housing. Nationwide, there is approximately $6 trillion worth of commercial real estate. At the same time, there is a current shortage of 3.3 million homes. Because real estate overhead can be a significant expense for an organization, converting to virtual offices with subscriptions to coworking and shared workspace for meetings can significantly improve the organization’s bottom line. Vacating any significant amount of commercial real estate may help states and local governments convert buildings for residential use, thereby providing much-needed living space.
Will your organization make the socially, environmentally, and economically responsible change after Covid-19?
Business process disruptions have occurred throughout our history. Prime examples are the invention of the automobile with its incredible change on goods movement, and the invention of the smartphone with its enormous impact on communications. Covid-19 is a world-wide shock to the system after which organizations will have a major choice… to return to the comfortable mediocrity of yesterday, or move forward into the future of work. Your employees are already working remotely, and learning technologies and techniques to make virtual offices work. Give your organization and your employees a gift, advertise your friendliness toward the environment, and increase your overall productivity. Prepare now for a full conversion to virtual offices once the outbreak subsides.