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Is Working From Home Here to Stay?

·5 min read

Due to COVID-19, companies have adapted to the need for isolation by switching to remote working. Before this global pandemic only about 7% of Americans had the option to work from home, and during the pandemic, according to an MIT survey, 34% of workers went from commuting to work to working from home. This transition was vital to keeping businesses running, but will businesses go back to their previous methods of work prior to the pandemic, or will they continue working in this new structure?

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There are software companies emerging and adapting their products to fill the needs surfacing from this new format of work. Zoom’s usage has increased over 300% since the beginning of the pandemic, Google Hangout’s downloads are swiftly increasing, and software company Kinemagic has pivoted its new virtual reality software to make telecollaboration possible.

Working from home has been proven to provide benefits not only to the workers, but the companies as well. According to Global Workplace Analytics (GWA), companies that work from home save an average of $11,000 per half-time telecommuter.

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“The primary savings are the result of increased productivity, lower real estate costs, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and better disaster preparedness.” – GWA.

Scott Mann of Highforge moved from in-office work to a fully remote company prior to the pandemic, and he has long-term first-hand experience on how this transition has proven to be beneficial to his company and his employees.

“… there are major upsides like the elimination of commuting, drastically reduced overhead, location freedom (work from the beach or another country), life freedom (do laundry while working), improved retention, a larger applicant pool, and the list goes on,” Mann said.

He also mentions how production has actually increased since moving to remote work as it has eliminated walk by meetings that, although were intended on improving productivity and management, were quite disruptive. Scott is managing his workers through cloud-based software. He has them track their daily time and what they are working on, which provides the benefit of being able to review projects and seeing trends to adapt approaches moving forward. There is a common reservation about switching to work from home due to the employer’s apprehension to leaving their employees unsupervised. There is also concern regarding the quality of the work being produced.

Scott states, “from an owner perspective, the biggest hurdle initially was overcoming the fear of losing control. I was worried that the work would take longer or not be as good, or that people wouldn’t be working when they should be, but learning to trust the team and trust the process and focusing on rewarding output instead of attendance has changed everything for the better.”

There are tools available to utilize that allow remote work to not sacrifice quality and to potentially enhance it. We are seeing more video conferencing softwares coming to surface, but the standing question is: how can teams truly collaborate via virtual video meetings? Which is when Kinemagic came into play.

Video meetings have been great for lectures or meetings that involve a single presenter with restricted conversation, but there is a limit to relying on video for remote meetings. Companies that aim for collaboration are turning to virtual reality for a more involved virtual meeting format. Virtual reality meetings allow the participates to collaborate in an immersive environment that provides a sense of authentic dynamic found in the in-person meeting format.

Kinemagic has released their new software, Stratus, with changes that suit the need for remote collaboration.

“… Stratus offers tools that enable collaborative interaction such as whiteboarding and gesturing. Stratus goes well beyond operating in a home environment; we allow teams to interact in their own environment, particularly if it’s a large facility.”

Kinemagic points out the immersive quality of virtual reality meetings. There is a benefit to the company having complete control of the environment and using virtual reality for product demonstrations.

“… If your business has a focus on objects—whether an apple or a battleship—a VR meeting provides the spatial context that video calls can’t touch. … Virtual reality meetings are beyond three-dimension and move into immersive environments that the company can choose. It’s the difference between seeing a photo of a statue or seeing the statue itself.”

Prior to COVID-19 companies were sending their employees to do in-person product demonstrations. As face-to-face meetings are not currently an option, there is a need to adapt businesses to suit the current climate. According to Global Business Analytics:

“Work-at-home will save U.S. employers over $30 Billion a day in what would have otherwise been lost productivity during office closures due to COVID-19”

Being forced into this working format is going to create a new demand for this work style for companies and employees. The prediction by Global Business Analytics is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. This pandemic is molding our American work culture and, with new software and resources surfacing, the limitations that were previously present are lifting.