You’ve probably heard or read important studies by Gallup, Airtasker and others that show remote employees are more productive than their in-office counterparts. I have.
And as an employer, it was appealing to me at first. Which employer doesn’t like having more output at lower cost?
I understand some are even thinking of closing their offices and having their employees work permanently from their various homes – a move that would save their organization’s a lot of money on rent/mortgage, maintenance, utilities and insurance, among others.
So, you quickly get the impression of a win-win. Employers are spending less and getting more while employees are saved the long commute hours and hassles, have more time to spend with family and friends, and could get extra pay from their cost-savings-happy employers.
That could work well for Accounting, Digital Marketing and Fundraising, and Software Creation and Sales firms, for instance. With the requisite skills, and functioning laptops packed with needed software and time clocking system, staff members could deliver great results from the convenience of their own homes (though they’d likely pay more for their utilities).
But what if the organization is Amazon? Or Henry Ford Hospitals? Or My Mom and Pop Restaurant? Or Jane and James Collision Shop? Or Car Wash For Hope? Amazon needs thousands of people working hands-on in warehousing and product fulfillment. Henry Ford needs many healthcare professionals diagnosing, administering relevant treatments, monitoring patients and talking face-to-face with them. Restaurants are not just about good food, snacks and drinks; they are also about the relaxation and social interactions that happen inside them. And the last time I checked, collision shops and car washes are the kind of small businesses in our communities that need hands-on staff.
Who knows? Maybe, one day, when people of my generation have become a matter of distant memory, all those services can completely be rendered remotely via a more sophisticated version of Zoom or Google Hangouts. But for now, most people involved in them have to show up at the applicable business premises and get things done and done right.
That’s how it is with direct service organizations like nonprofit Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM). You don’t provide homeless and jobless veterans needed hope and help from the comfort of your own home. Nor do you help a returning citizen gain stability and self-reliance with just phone or video conversations. You have to be there – where they are – and show them you care indeed.
Each day, we serve over 5000 meals at our various locations in metro Detroit. For obvious reasons, such nutritious meals have to be prepared and served by our chefs on site. There’s no other efficient and healthy way to do it. The distressed women and children at our shelters need many wrap around services that must be provided face-to-face, observing requisite physical distancing, of course. The same is true of the men and women in need of our detox and substance use disorder treatment services. As far as I know, nobody in any part of the globe administers prescription-only medication via phone or video conferencing. It is done in very close proximity to the patients.
Yes, the clamor for remote work is likely to increase post-pandemic, and it might become “the new normal” in a number of organizations. But there should be no ambivalence about the truism that while it is suitable in some work situations, and has obvious benefits, it is not yet appropriate and advisable in many organizations that rely heavily on physical presence and activities. Thus, when it comes to remote work, what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander, and it is important that employers properly explain this to their valued employees.