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Working from Home – What’s in Store?

The recent COVID-19 event has changed the way many of us work. For some, it prohibited normal work. Many others, however, have adapted to a work-from-home (WFH) status. This can mean different things to different people and types of work, but for many SMB this means using a computer, whether personal or business, to log in to a central location. Other SMBs have online components of the software they use which circumvents the need for a central server.

Either way, it’s hard to deny that working from home will change—is changing—how we work. IT systems have shown how resilient they can be. Not just during an emergency, either. Many business owners are realizing that much of what they spend resources on might be better spent elsewhere.

Let’s look at productivity. It’s easy to assume being home will result in constant distraction. This is a dangerous assumption, however, as it’s folly to pretend the office is without distraction. Additionally, studies published by the Quarterly Journal of Economics examining a Chinese travel company actually showed higher rates of productivity when working from home compared to the office—in fact, over an additional half-day per week. (The caveat here is that staff must be prepared to work from home, which we discuss later in this article.)

Additionally, the need to commute is reduced (or eliminated, in a fully remote workplace). This eliminates fuel costs and vehicle maintenance costs for an employee, and allows a SMB owner to calculate that into salary offerings. The stress of being on the road, depending where one travels, can be an important factor as well.

There are downsides, as well. A common complaint when it comes to WFH is the inability to escape work. After all, with some exception, much of our work traditionally happens “at the office”. This naturally means that when one leaves the office s/he leaves work. This is not strictly true, of course, and hasn’t been in modern times. But, still, for the most part, there were reasonable limits.

WFH means our office is where we live, so the division of work and home becomes blurred. I will admit, I can struggle with this at times. While it is rewarding to take time we would otherwise have used to drive home to finish those leftover items, there is a risk of burn-out inherent to working too much and being constantly available. It is a pitfall each worker must be aware of, as “burn-out” generally lowers productivity and morale.

Another common mistake many are making is that they haven’t set up properly for working from home. COVID-19 forced many into a situation for which many were unprepared—schools closed, no quality space set up for a home office, insufficient IT support and many other factors. These factors should be mitigated as possible for proper work from home. Under normal circumstances—is this the new normal?—in many cases, they can be.

IT is a large part of many businesses, and security is a necessary component thereof. At times staff is using many different means of working, including a mix of personal and work machines, different wireless connections, and many other factors. Special policies must be enabled to remain secure while working from home. (Check out our blog post on this subject from April.)

SMB owners have a lot to think about as we all try to move onward and upward away from coronavirus-caused disruption. One large question for many will be can—and should—my business work from home, and to what extent?

Your IT support will be a key part of this. We’re always open to discussing this issue with local business owners and decision-makers for companies. If you’d be interested in having a discussion with our CEO, Steve Plumlee, to help find deficiencies in your IT plans or how a Managed Services Provider could help, give us a call or link up with us!

Reference: Stanford News, author Adam Gorlick. “The Productivity Pitfalls of Working From Home in the Age of COVID-19”

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