Is a digital business model healthy for the economy?

Adapt. Strengthen. Innovate. The expansion of remote work through the adoption of innovative technological platforms poses generous opportunities for boosting efficiency and company cohesion. That is, businesses should cultivate new management styles that capitalise on flexible working practices and increased opportunity for efficiency. Soon, long gone will be the days of what Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack calls ‘corporate pageantry’. Perhaps counter-intuitively, a survey commissioned by Harvard University found that the level of meeting attendance increased by an average of 12.9% during isolation. With the plethora of communicative tools such as phone and video conferences, and one-on-one messaging, larger meetings can now cross-pollinate important business agendas and ‘common knowledge’ more efficiently.

Furthermore, increased opportunities to work from home capitalise on the augmented flexibility and job satisfaction to increase overall productivity levels. Employees will be freed from the confines of their office cubicles, onslaughts of co-worker distractions and lunch break errands that subordinate their productivity. Instead, findings by The Conversation found that only 8.4% of managers surveyed reported drops in productivity while 34.6% welcomed higher levels. Arguably, the increased time that employees can use to nurture family bonds and exercise, correlates to improved job morale and productivity at the home-desk. Ultimately, the championing of ‘teleworkability’ will nurture pro-worker policies and provide for increased business productivity, lower attrition rates and overall quality of work.

Furthermore, expanding the working-from-home potential will also increase the geographic sprawl of economic activity to the suburbs, both reducing the amount of office space and commute time needed. Imagine a day where the likes of Martin Place and Wynyard are developed beyond just being concrete jungles. As Dr. Darja Reuschke of the University of Southampton suggests, we will be able to spread much needed population and economic action from the cities to the suburbs by de-centralising our traditional workplaces. Simultaneously, the increased free space provided by reduced office space in our city centres can accommodate new leisure spaces and retail opportunities

The Tech Headaches of Working From Home and How to Remedy Them - The New  York Times

While it cannot be argued that the adaptation of innovative technology during Coronavirus has been a major factor in the survival of small business, it has fostered remote work that raises concerns about longer term business productivity. In a fresh study published by the National Library of Medicine, it was found that employees that were working one or more days a week from home were 70% less likely to receive a positive evaluation when compared to their team members. Testing their hypothesis in a sample space of over 9000 employees in more than 800 teams for 250 organisations across nine different countries; the results were as clear cut as they come. Working from home results in an employee performing worse. Despite the wide array of technological tools available (including Zoom and Teams) the study found that much of the knowledge, information and assistance from the workplace stems from spontaneous and informal conversations, which cannot be replicated through the barrier of a computer screen.

Furthermore, working from home may introduce a number of privacy concerns that may put the security of themselves, their families and their employers at risk. Specifically, software tools such as ‘Zoom’ collect a host of personal information such as location data, OS, IP Address and the device of use. This has introduced the practice of ‘Zoom-Bombing’, which consists of any individual joining a meeting in an attempt to hinder productivity through reprobate behaviour. This creates a toxic atmosphere in the online workplace; and is a major concern for companies shifting to a digital-only business environment.

Shifting to a work from home model additionally creates numerous distractions that influence the overall effectiveness of business operations. Mundane things such as household noise or regular interruptions are seen to have a major impact; with 40% of employees citing it as a problem when working from home. Furthermore, it is less likely for a home office to be fully equipped to properly replicate the workplace. This is quantified through the fact that 25% of employees reported a lack of proper work surfaces; thereby implicitly hindering workplace productivity.