Earlier this month, when Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft asked their Seattle-based staff to begin working from home, it was significant but not alarming. Surely those companies have the resources in place for such a shift.
But it is a big deal—for any kind of organization, no matter how digital they are. Consider these statistics:
- 40 percent more U.S. employers offer flexible workplace options than they did five years ago, but only 7 percent offer those options to most or all of their employees. (Source: Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)
- Currently, only 5 million employees work at home half or more of their total work hours. That’s just 3.6 percent. (Source: Global Workplace Analytics’ analysis of 2018 American Community Service data.)
Considering that just 3.6 percent of U.S. employees are equipped to work remotely, one of the key challenges for organizations in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic is how to quickly put resources in place to enable the rest of their staff to work from home1.
There’s a lot of work to be done.
First, there are the basics to think about. Companies must make sure they have enough hardware to support a remote staff. They must also provide remote workers with resources to stay productive—support for when they have software questions or issues, plus training and coaching for critical applications like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, OneDrive, and others.
Then there are the longer-term considerations: the growing importance of agility for both employees and organizations, the critical need for adoption and change management strategies, and the necessity for ongoing training and support. Sudden disruptions are part of the new world of work—companies must make sure they are as ready as they can be.
Making the decision to close is not something any institution takes lightly—it’s an unprecedented level of disruption, even for organizations that were “born digital.”
The key is to prioritize employee well-being—by giving them the tools and support they need to work remotely, you are enabling them to make choices, to stay productive, and even experience a little bit of normality and purpose in an extraordinarily unpredictable period.
1. Some workers in fields like retail, dining, medical, childcare, and others simply cannot work remotely. Indeed, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data conducted by Global Workplace Analytics, only 56 percent of employees have a job where at least some of what they do could be done remotely. (Source.)
Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.