One day, hopefully soon, the COVID-19 shutdown will be over and things will get back to normal in America.
Or will they?
An intriguing business model could be emerging and it could bring sweeping change to the American business landscape.
The home office could finally take hold.
Out would be big buildings, big parking lots, big expensive offices, big expensive on-site computers and IT support to keep it all running.
Commuting could become a thing of the past, who needs to drive when you can walk to your dining room, study or spare bedroom and clock in?
COVID-19 has proven American’s can sequester in place and still get work done. The workplace is finally decentralized.
Getting there though is something that will take time to fully implement and there are a lot of hurdles before American white-collar business can fully switch over.
University of New Orleans Professor Emeritus of Economics and Business, Dr. Janet Speyrer offered a view of the future.
She says initially work will likely be transformed into a hybrid:
“There’s going to be some kind of work at home and work at the office.”
Speyrer says this could be a lot like an engineer: “There’s a lot of things that an engineer does that could easily be done on a computer at home and see some engineering going on at the office only.”
Coming into the office for client meetings or consults with other engineers and specialists—needed face to face contact—before returning home to work up a project.
The most important piece to the puzzle is the monitoring of the worker to ensure work is getting done and in a timely matter.
“Monitoring is going to have to be more regular, more sophisticated,” Speyrer says. “Monitoring workers for the time they spend on projects is going to be important.”
She says business will likely move away from the hourly pay scale and implement a performance requirement:
“There will be a result that is expected after a certain period of time,” She explains. “The fact that the result exists is really the important thing. Not which hours the person works.”
But before any elaborate system for monitoring can be invented, Speyrer says a lot of infrastructure needs to be greatly expanded.
“We’re going to all need more (broadband and Wi-Fi) capacity at home,” Speyrer declares. “We’ve been working in a temporary situation and some people have more sophisticated systems than others.”
Finally, making the jump to a home office will likely mean the acquiring of more square footage to have a home office.
“It will change the amount of space people will need,” Speyrer says. “Some will be able to afford to adjust that and some of them won’t. So, I think, people will find a way to upgrade the home environment.”
Speyrer says it’s not likely companies will switch over to all work at home models, but the performance and implementation of home-based workers will likely pick up speed now that we’ve proven it can be done while operating in an emergency situation as we’ve seen with COVID-19.