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COVID-19 Brings The Telecommuting Challenge Into the Spotlight

How The Pandemic is Bringing Attention to Remote Work

March 31, 2020

The global pandemic surrounding the novel corona virus (COVID-19) has uncovered a major challenge for many businesses – remote work. In an effort to protect public safety and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by reducing human interaction much of the world has implemented some form of “shelter in place”. Although the particulars vary from country to country (and within the United States – from state to state), the basics are the same. In order to protect public health and continue operating businesses must enable their teams to work remotely. This crisis has revealed that many companies were woefully unprepared for this contingency. As a result, many companies are struggling to put measures in place to ensure their team can work safely and effectively without the consolidated resources provided by an office. 

A Brief History of Working from Home

In may ways the idea of telework has cycled in and out of focus as technologies changed. The term “telework”, coined in the 1970’s by Jack M. Nilles in his book The Telecommunications Transportation Tradeoff, may seem like a idea spawned in the internet age, but at its core “working from home” is as old as work itself. Creatives, farmers, crafts people, merchants, and more have been working from home in hybrid living/work spaces since the beginning of civilization. Indeed, it wasn’t until the industrial revolution that the modern 9-5 office model came to be. This is significant, because for many companies the idea of an office, factory, or centralized working space outside the home has become the default – the right way to work. History tells us that people can be productive working from home, and than even in times of limited communications technology businesses thrived without centralized offices. 

The Challenge Today

Obviously, the challenges of working from home are entirely different than they would have been in the localized markets and infrastructure of 1800’s. We exist in a fast-paced global economy that requires a different way of thinking. The internet provides an open and highly accessible repository of knowledge and resources, but many companies are still dependent on analog systems like paper filing and in-person meetings. Similarly, many business are structured to depend on direct, physical supervision by managers. Workers are often not trusted to complete work independently or systems are not implemented to track productivity and accountability digitally. These analog methodologies and technologies are holding businesses back from effective telework. For the first time, many companies are finding themselves unprepared for “business as usual” and are experiencing the negative impact of outdated systems. The following quote from Nilles’ book was written in 1973, but it rings just as true today. 

The Telecommunications Transportation Tradeoff

WRITTEN BY: JACK M. NILLES, ROY CARLSON, PAUL GRAY, & GERHARD HANNEMAN

“…either the jobs of the employees must be redesigned so that they can still be self-contained at each individual location, or a sufficiently sophisticated telecommunications and information-storage system must be developed to allow the information transfer to occur as effectively as if the employees were centrally collocated.”

The Telecommunications Transportation Tradeoff

Written by: Jack M. Nilles, Roy Carlson, Paul Gray, & Gerhard Hanneman

Problems and Solutions

For every modern problem, there is a modern solution. Technology is rapidly addressing many of the barriers to a more flexible work life, here are four basic concerns and an initial view on how they can be addressed:

Information Access

We use a lot of physical documents. How can I get everyone the information they need?

SOLUTION

Scanning, OCR, and a dedicated electronic content management platform are the answer for enterprise wide information collaboration. Especially, if the data needs to be security compliant. For the day to day sharing of resources file sharing services like Onedrive, Dropbox, or a secure FTP will suffice. 

Productivity

How do I ensure staff are being productive? Without oversight it’s difficult to know that things are getting done. 

SOLUTION

Tracking hours is as easy as instituting digital time cards. However there are many more comprehensive solutions. Task managers can be used to track time on a specific project, gather data on productivity, and help with hourly billing.  

Collaboration

In collaborative departments like marketing, how do we maintain synergy on projects?

SOLUTION

There are tons of collaborative task software platforms – many of which are free such as Monday or Trello. Platforms like this allow for simple task management, visual brainstorming and more.

Security

We work with sensitive information that must be regulated and protected. How can we continue making sure our networks are safe?

SOLUTION

The Cloud is more secure than ever – you can easily protect your applications and data online with next level security tools. Likewise, Physical protocols like ID enabled laptops can provide secure network access and are already in use for a variety of government agencies. 

The Case for Change

Over the past few decades research has continued to support the effectiveness of telecommuting as a viable business model. Most studies show that employees are happier, it’s better for the environment, and that productivity actually increases with flexible work. Younger generations such as Millenials and Gen-Z highly value a flexible workplace and as a result, offering remote options is key to attracting younger talent.

That being said, remote work is not possible for every job, particularly those which require large specialized equipment or physical collaboration (such as manufacturing and construction). Additionally, for some workers, the stress of trying to balance home life and work tasks without the clear segmentation of a 40 hours workweek could spawn additional challenges and stress.

Even with the many barriers in mind, it’s likely that the COVID-19 crisis is going to change the working landscape forever. In spite of the growing pains, there is ample research to support the move to a more digitally flexible office:

Businesses save an average of $20,000 a year for each full-time employee who works remotely

Employee productivity increased by an average of 22% when remote working was allowed

60% of flexible workers surveyed in a Flex Strategy Group survey  said they feel they’re “more productive and engaged”

In a study conducted by Stanford University, remote working reduced employee turnover by 50%

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How does DOMA enable Telecommuting

As a cloud-first company DOMA has is well equipped to both work remotely and to support other businesses in flexible, distance solutions. Over half of DOMA’s workforce was able to transition with virtually no disruption within 24 hours to a work-at-home model. ID card enabled laptops, secure Cloud software, online video conferencing, and digital task management have allowed a virtually seamless transition for staff in nearly every department.

DOMA believes that many companies will realize the benefits of a more flexible workforce and the technologies needed that support it. In an effort to learn more about the challenges other businesses are facing DOMA is conducting a quick survey. Your input will help us to gather data about how the need to work remotely during the COVID-19 crisis has affected your business. In a follow-up post, we will visualize and share the data from our mini-study. 

Please help us learn more about your experience with telework by taking our Remote Work Survey:

About DOMA- Powered by Tech, Driven by People

DOMA Technologies (DOMA) was founded in 2000 as a Cloud-based document management company. Today DOMA delivers comprehensive solutions using the latest tools to help you collaborate with enterprise data. DOMA captures and transforms information through digital solutions using hyper-automation. Our data and document solutions pair traditional practices like scanning with advanced cloud technology to extract, convert, and visualize the data trapped in your documents. 

These services, along with the DOMA Experience (DX) software platform are designed to help support your organization’s Digital Transformation journey. With a considerable portfolio of governmenthealthcareeducation, and commercial business customers DOMA has the experience and infrastructure to deploy integrated solutions that address your business challenges with innovation. Contact DOMA to digitize your workflow; DOMA makes complex operations simple across a wide range of industries.

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Media Contact:

Danielle Wethington
Director of Communications
DMT@DOMAonline.com

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