Pre-covid approximately 4% of white-collar workers worked from home. It was not seen by most workers as “acceptable”. Employers did not think employees could be efficient while working from home.
Now during our lockdown, 50% of white-collar workers are working from home 100% of the time. Companies have quickly built work-from-home infrastructure, replaced in-person meetings with Zoom calls, and survived.
Many managers are surprised at how productive their teams have remained. Many employees have started to appreciate part of work from home (the flexibility of being able to run errands, the lack of a 2-hour commute, the ability to have dinners with their family, and the extra productivity with fewer distractions).
Obviously, this has not been an ideal WFH experiment. Parents have had to homeschool while working, companies that work with physical goods lack the ways to test/experiment or sample those goods (how does an apparel store check out the latest line of clothing?) and some companies have special equipment and tools that you cannot do at home.
But even with that, this change is going to shift work to part-time WFH – resulting in a long-term increase in remote work. The infrastructure is now in place, employees have gotten a taste of the benefits, and company management has been pleasantly surprised with the level of efficiency. People are going to go back to the office (many miss it) but companies and employees are going to be much more open to having their co-workers work from home at least a few times a week.
- Major innovations in home office furniture and supplies. (Think new types of standing desks, microphones and speakers, office green screens, etc…).
- Home office product review sites. (Best home office microphones, standing desks, setups)
- Home office furniture stores focused on company budgets. (What you can buy with a $1500 stipend from your company).
- New Procurement and inventory management platforms focused on at-home equipment. Larger companies used to only need to keep track of desks/chairs in the office. Now they will need to handle purchase, delivery, recovery of in-office equipment.
- Productivity analytics tools will emerge as more work will be done via SaaS tools so more work will be trackable.
- An explosion of tools to make meetings more efficient and productive (automatically teases out “action items” from Zoom meeting transcription and adds to Asana, etc…)
- Changes in Hiring/ATS tools to facilitate remote workforce
- The unbundling of Zoom. We are only in inning three of a nine inning game of video-chat with companies like Zoom. While Zoom currently has the best technical reception, the space has a pretty low switching cost and it is very horizontally focused – or as some would say “the jack of all trades and king of none”. It specifically is not so good with use-cases like group networking events, always-on serendipity, and interactions besides a basic chat, hand wave and video responses. I would expect in the next 5 years half a dozen upstart companies will emerge de-bundling Zoom as verticalized video-collaboration for specific use cases that handle the problem 10x better than Zoom emerge and gain traction.
If you currently are working on one of these opportunities or want to work on them, please contact me at charlie at iamcharliegraham dot com