Today, instead of writing about ergonomics, I’m going to make a departure.
Every 90 years or so, as a society we go through a period of upheaval. Historians Strauss and Howe wrote about this in their book Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1859 to 2069, tying it to a cycle of “generational cohorts,” each with its own characteristics, which lead one naturally to the next.
Richard Florida took a less clinical approach in his The Great Reset” He didn’t spend a lot of time on the “why,” instead he concentrated on the “what.”
However you wish to look at it, about every 90 years, everything changes; there is a time of societal and cultural upheaval, and with it comes a massive shift, a realignment. The last one was the Great Depression/WWII and if we take the period as beginning in the late 20s, and fast forward 90 years, this transition began a few years ago, and we’re just now coming into the heart of it.
What does this transition mean? According to Mr. Florida, these transitions, these resets, are a time when the way we work and live go through massive changes.
In the 1850s, we were an agrarian society, mostly living on farms. There was “’the long depression” followed by the Civil War, accompanied by the Industrial Revolution, and we transitioned from being that agrarian, farming society, to living in high-density cities, working in factories.
Fast forward to the Great Depression and The War. We went from living in those high-density cities, near to our jobs in the factories, to living in the suburbs, and commuting in for our jobs. From apartments to single-family dwellings, from factory work to office work, from walking/riding the bus to commuting to work.
A few years ago, we began to see the rise of high quality, high-speed internet. As the speed and quality rose, the cost came down, and people began to discover they could do large parts of their jobs from just about anywhere. All they needed was a power source, and a decent internet connection.
This phenomenon moved slowly along. More progressive companies offered their employees the opportunity to do parts of their jobs remotely, until March of this year when everything changed.
Of course, March 2020 was when the COVID-19 crisis hit, full blast. Suddenly, workers who wanted to do remote work were no longer asking their employers for the chance to do so. Rather, employers were sending as much of their workforce away, to work from home, as they possibly could.
It’s been six months now and we are beginning to see the results.
- Some people love working from home and don’t want to go back to the office.
- Some people hate working from home and desperately want to go back to the office.
- Of course, some are stuck between, liking remote work, but having difficulty adjusting to it.
The thing is, Pandora’s Box is open. The genie is out of the bottle. The cat is out of the bag. Workers and companies alike are going to have to adjust.
Remote work has arrived, big time, and it’s not going away. How does an employer tell people, who have proven they don’t need to be at the office 40 hours a week to do their jobs, that they must come back?
How does an employer, having discovered they can reduce their office footprint (and thus renting/leasing costs) by 75% or more, convince employees who are less comfortable with remote work that it is the new normal? What can they do to help their employees adjust to the new normal?
These are just the first pass problems that we will need to address as we move further into this latest “great reset.”