Made it home from our US Orlando Symposium conference last week – expecting a quick turnaround to the Symposium conference in Brazil. My plans were interrupted by Sandy. Some of my colleagues never made it back home until after the storm. I rode it out in my antique home – which in the past few weeks has shook from an earthquake, followed by 70 mile winds. No major damage, fortunately. Our thoughts are with colleagues, friends, and family in the NY/NJ area that are still dealing with the consequences.
Interestingly enough, I ran a round-table at our conference entitled: “How the Nexus affects what you do for a living”. Ostensibly meant to have attendees discuss what is happening at the workplace – and how it is affected by the forces of social media, cloud, mobility, and the glut of information (what we call “the Nexus of Forces”).
The discussion was enlightening. It’s not often that peer groups from different companies can get together and talk about how the impact of new technology, and new ways of work, are affecting them. Inevitably, much of the discussion centered on “work at home”. And the range of reaction was from “we won’t/can’t” to “it’s inevitable and a huge productivity boon – helping our bottom line”. Companies are in transition on new work models – they take advantage of Nexus impacts in many different ways, reflecting different paths or points on a path, to remote work capability. They fall into these categories:
- No means no; I need to see you working
- Employees with a need (usually sales, and on the road types) get special treatment
- OK, if you have to – built don’t make it a habit
- How about we change dress down Friday’s to work from home Friday’s?
- Work can be a blend of office and home
- Stay home – you are more productive there (counter intuitive, but quickly becoming an accepted fact – especially if managed appropriately)
Lots of downsides to this work-at-home trend, and many things that need to be addressed. But the trend is clear.
…and then Sandy Hit.
Today’s NY Times piece said it best: Slim Hopes for a Better Commute. Yet my expectations are (for those enterprises that having operating datacenters) is that we’ll see the impacts mitigated by employees using their company’s nascent work-at-home infrastructure.
But that doesn’t help everyone in the foot print of a power outage, failed networks, and damaged infrastructure: Wireless Networks Get Hit by Outages Along East Coast. The trend of “no more home landlines” doesn’t reduce the potential for network failure – only consolidates the impact. As cell towers come back online, service restoration will be much faster than if linemen had to go from house to house, or street to street. But it’s still an impact.
So a mix of work-at-home capability, and physical office-based collaboration, can only be characterized as work location diversity. Not to be confused with work-place diversity – which is a whole other topic.
I once wondered whether the work at home trend would result in a massive commercial (office space) real estate crash. Sandy may teach us that work location diversity is good. My guess is that work from anywhere (not just home) will be seen (après Sandy) as a capability that reduced the economic impacts of the storm (as large as they still are), and helps the Mean Time to Recover for business services – especially services sourced from the NY/NJ metro area (if not delivered to).
And that may be the real lesson of super storm Sandy, especially for a future with increased “weather events”…