The recent pandemic hit the world hard. There were the horrible direct effects of death and lingering illness. A colleague lost his mother and an uncle to the disease and many others grieved. But there were also many indirect effects. Industries that were associated with travel ground to a halt. Most industries found themselves in the position of being required to learn how to work remotely.
Remote work was not created by the latest pandemic. Remote workers have existed for a long time. It has long been used and discussed but, without impetus to management for change, little had changed over the years.
Within the "cottage industries" (textiles made an extensive use of such), people in their own homes would be assigned work that they were expected to make of a certain quality within a given time. The cottage industries extended the square footage of the factories by making use of a network of physical spaces.
Beyond the cottage industries, a certain degree of remote/hybrid work has existed for many other areas that require, or allow, movement from place to place as part of the job. These job categories include customer support, article writing/journalism, sales, and other mobile-requisite tasks.
Prior to the latest pandemic, however, little shifted from year to year. The recent pandemic forced most businesses into a remote/hybrid situation. Forced change usually means difficult, and uncomfortable, change.
What were the results? Some industries had travel an integral part of their business and they were hit hardest. Factories, which required people to be present, had difficulties. Newly created (not the ones that had already been in existence) remote education had very erratic results (my 3 sons' colleges were quite inept at handling such). Restaurants shifted to delivery but suffered from personnel problems. Many industries in which the product wasn't physical shifted to a "cottage industry" model. But the economy survived -- it did not all collapse. Most businesses found that they could survive, and some even thrive, with a remote workforce.
Survival does not necessarily mean thriving. Could the company do as well, or better, in a remote situation? In some cases, the answer is yes as measured by output and revenue. What about long-term? Can they continue to grow, innovate, and produce in a remote situation? What about a hybrid situation? Is that an improvement or does it end up with some benefits, and some problems, of each?
There isn't a single answer for companies. Much of the overhead pain of transition has already been taken. It is a good time for serious analysis and discussion; it is unlikely to be beneficial to try to quickly retreat to old models.
An important part of evaluation and consideration is feedback on how well the process is working. In my next blog, I will talk about factors on judging success.