What Happens To WFH After the Corona Virus?


April 3, 2020

Well, it happened. You finally got what you wanted! No, not celebrities in their million dollar mansions singing “Imagine” or influencers posting their in-home workouts, you’re working from home! Unbelievable, right? We’ve known this was coming for awhile, kinda. We saw it far off in the horizon, hinted at it, talked about it, saw some cool guy on Instagram in Thailand doing it. But, you never thought it would be YOU! You’re checking the morning’s emails in bed, you’re wearing button-ups and briefs to meetings, you’re taking your dog on 23 walks a day, you’re even having virtual happy hours! (I sincerely hope you haven’t had to do that last one.) So… what do you think? The first few days, even the first few weeks, are just exhilarating, right? Hell, you’re probably still in that stage. Well, I'm not here to rain on your parade but what about 3 months from now? 6 months? 1 year? 5 years? Then what? This is the first of two topics I’ve been thinking about. I think they’ll both merge together nicely in the end.

I’m sure you’ve seen every company have their stab at “5 tips to be productive while working from home!” “8 tips to nail that virtual interview!” Do a lot of people read these? I think so. Do they help? I don’t know. They don’t for me. Yes, some people will slack off, it’s inevitable. Is that a bad thing? In the short run, yeah. In the long run? I don’t think so. Why? Because, and I’m about to say something crazy here, a lot of people will thrive! I get it, for some businesses this WFH era is 100% temporary. Once this ends, it’s back to business as usual like nothing ever happened. It’s just not viable for some sectors, or the owners/bosses still have to ask for help connecting to the Wi-fi. To each their own. But, and this is a big but, some businesses, a lot of businesses, will change, forever!

So, how will bosses track employees? What happens to cities if people can work from anywhere? How do we maintain corporate culture, and employee happiness, virtually? The list goes on.

Let’s get it out of the way, I don’t think the office will ever die, entirely. What?! How could I say such a thing? Because we, as human beings, need human interaction. Interaction that isn’t satiated by Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Slack, Twitch, Blurb, Tertsy or Rootz (I made those last three up, don’t worry, you’re not missing out on some new tech fad). Even the most introverted folks get lonely. As with anything, there are people on both sides of this office argument. The far left being techies who are already 100% remote and can’t fathom going back to the office, ever. The far right being those same bosses who have trouble connecting to the wifi. They wake up sweating in the middle of the night worried about their millennial employees never getting anything done. Both of them probably have some valid points and would argue those until the cows come home. Did I just give it away that I’m from Oklahoma? Regardless, the future is most likely going to be somewhere right in the middle. On top of that, I’m going to make a prediction. This is fun, isn’t it?

I just told you, accidentally, that I’m from Oklahoma. I'm American. It’s ingrained into me that we need to be as productive as possible and that time spent doing nothing is time wasted. We should always be learning a new skill, making a podcast, reading 2 books a week, waking up at 5am because life is an experiment, hustling, grinding, up’n’at’em, no days off, the early bird gets the worm, *insert any other cliche*. You get the point. Now for the prediction. The rigid, 9-5, 8 hour work day will become a thing of the past. This is partly because of this culture I just mentioned, and partly as a natural side effect of this current WFH situation. Some people like to wake up at 5 and run a half marathon, then write for their blog, then go to work from 9-5. They're super heroes. Some people prefer to work from 5-1 then have the afternoons free for their kids. I could go on and on with different situations.

*Short aside: I wanted to write “of our current serendipitous WFH situation.” The definition of serendipitous is, “occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” This definitely happened by chance, but not in a happy way. After a google search, I learned a new word: zemblanity. Look it up. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.*

Bosses, trusting your employees to work remotely now, and in the future with these flexible schedules, will be of the utmost importance. You might as well do this willingly, the other option, micro management, is a lot more painful and will drive you insane, even more so the more remote your work force is. You’ve got an excellent opportunity to show your character, and your company’s character, right now during these unprecedented times. You quite literally can make or break yourself. I think it goes without saying that employers that treat their employees well, now, will do much better than those that don’t. This is always the case, but especially now. No matter the size of the company, the employees will probably fall evenly along our proverbial “remote programmer in zip up hoodie to boss needing help with wifi” spectrum. Are you ready for the solution to all of this?

The only plausible way forward is to offer a balance of both WFH & in-office time. I know what you’re thinking, companies are already doing this! Well, I mean REALLY embracing it. I’m talking letting the employees choose, everything. If they want to work 100% remote, fine, we’ve found out the last few weeks that that’s more than possible. I’m not sure how many people would choose this, but it’s probably far less than you think. It’s not everyone. A lot of people who think they’re a 100% remote type of person will realize some things in month 3, or month 6, or after a year, like I mentioned in the first paragraph. I’ve worked fully remote for the last 3 years. It’s great, don’t get me wrong. But, there are some days when there’s nothing I would love to do more than go into an office and chat with some other developers. Again, we need human interaction. It’s healthy, it’s in our DNA. Give them time to find out how they work best. They’ll thank you for it later. Your business will be better off for it. It really is a win-win. On the other end, would anyone show up to the office 5 days a week, 9-5? Probably more than you think! Some people just need to get out of the house or they’ll never ever get anything done. Some people might prefer to work 5-1, or 7-3, or 12-8, or a combination of those depending on the day and week. Some people might work from home 1 day this week and 4 days next week. Let them! This is the future, in my opinion. So, what happens with WFH after the corona virus? We let the employees decide!

- Zach