As the number of cases and deaths mount, COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic, continues to dominate our daily thoughts. Fear and panic are changing us. We ask the questions: When will this be over? What will life be like when this is over?
Here is something that many people probably have not noticed. Because our state’s stay-at-home order, and similar actions in other states, a new look could be coming to state government and some private businesses.
The order has forced thousands of people to work from home or some other place that is not the office. And, guess what, business is getting done.
Cellphones, laptops and desktops are making businesses and state offices operate from down the street and along country roads. Many private businesses and independent contractors have practicing “working remotely” for years.
Not that everyone is using it, will we see less populated state office buildings?
Many state employees have been forced to establish a workspace in the kitchen, the den or on the back porch. Some maybe getting the job done sitting in their car down the street because they can get better cell tower reception.
They are discovering it may be time to step into the new world of technology. Management and the rank-and-file don’t have to stare at each other to get things done.
Earlier this week, I polled dozens of people in Louisiana who are in the communications field like me. We write press releases, put stuff on social media, get needed information out to the public and try to convince people that our offices, bosses and organizations are doing good things and helping our constituency.
My poll asked if they were working from home or still at the office, especially since only essential people should be at the offices.
At least 97 percent of them said they were at home or “working remotely.”
Some of them see the writing on the wall that working remotely is going to be the new face of state government and some private businesses which haven’t caught on. They believe that, with the right person, a laptop and a cellphone can be a productive office no matter where it is.
“The ‘office’ is simply a historically convenient way for management to herd its cats,” a communications expert said. “Technology has long allowed employees to work from home and independent contractors to work from anywhere.”
The office concept, he said, does allow for much needed socialization which is lacking when working from home or an away site. But so, what? “Coronavirus is teaching us to rethink all of our social customs and mores.”
He added: “A large building, with poorly circulating air, housing scores of workers, condensed into a minefield of cubicles, may soon be a thing of the past.”
One communicator said, “I’m certain this emergency will change many of our work habits and locations for the rest of our careers. I keep thinking back to (Hurricane) Katrina and how many things we learned to do that we didn’t know existed … texting … working from a satellite office which meant working in another city but not from home. I keep trying to think of all the other things that will change as a result of the coronavirus…”
Also, in the possible new world of “working remotely,” there is a bit of caution. One communications expert said, those workers should “treat their new working space as their office by setting aside a room or, at least a working space in home. This is now their office. Once they do that, they will find themselves being more productive.”
There are people who have worked from home for years and found it gave them more creative time. They love it. But there are some family issues that need to be worked out, said a respondent: “I’ve worked out of a home office for more than a decade now. I just have more ‘coworkers’ these days.”
Email Edward Pratt a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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