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Working From Home (WFH) – a permanent alternative or not?

13 Aug 2020 | HR

In the recent E.L Index report – the Managing Director of E.L Consult and seasoned Executive recruiter, Grant Montgomery, argues that Working From Home (WFH) is not going to be permanent and not for those executives that want to advance. Please see the excerpt below.

Working from home is not a permanent answer

Working from home has in many ways also masked to effect of the pandemic on middle Australia with many executive positions carrying on apparently as before, by working at home.

But the cracks are now appearing in this alternative and it is very unlikely to become a permanent feature of the post pandemic economy.

Long before the pandemic companies had been toying with the idea of having staff work from home. It avoided long commutes saved infrastructure costs and with technology like Zoom meetings could be easily put together and managed.

In fact, in 2009 IBM had 40 percent of its worldwide 386,000 employees working from home but quickly called them back when they saw the long term effect it had on innovation, accountability and profitability.

Executives’ in Australia are going OK right now because people are working hard to cover the inefficiencies and work through the pandemic as best they can but they are spending heavily on the accumulated down on social capital build up on the pre pandemic years . Once people start changing jobs this deficit will become obvious.

You cannot deal easily with people you don’t know and the talking heads in Zoom meetings are no substitute for getting to know someone and work with them together as a team.

It is very difficult to make a complex sale to new client without a face to face meeting were the nuances of a client’s perceptions are hidden behind an electronic façade.

Bosses judge people and promote them in a large part on how they interact with their team and are unlikely to promote someone they have never regularly met face to face.

Many complex business solutions are worked out in a casual way with colleagues “shooting the breeze” and this will not happen in a formal electronic meeting.

There is still a long way to go with the pandemic and there will be many changes in work practices along the way but working from home is very unlikely to become permanent.

There was a lot or talk at the time and 9/11 almost halted flying for business meetings altogether. But within a year or two demand had increased to many times the previous intensity. Working from home for many businesses will no doubt suffer the same fate and decline rapidly once the pandemic risk subsides.

Of course, there will be many positions that will continue to work from home, but the central office will be where all the action is.