Coronavirus Should Be a Wake-Up Call

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Coronavirus Should Be a Wake-Up Call

A Zone Leader discusses how it's long over-due for 100% remote work to be the standard and not the exception within industry.

· Web Dev Zone ·
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Followers of my articles should not be surprised to read that I am a serious advocate of working remotely. Two of my most popular articles on the topic are included below if you are interested in checking them out:

With all of the media attention surrounding the coronavirus and the continued rise of reported cases, organizations and learning institutions are attempting to slow the growth of the situation by allowing employees and students to work/learn remotely.

In my view, this situation should be a wake-up call for those decision-makers who are currently allowing a 100% remote option to become a long-term strategy that boosts productivity and employee satisfaction.

Productivity Gains

Over the past three years, all of the projects assigned to me have allowed some degree of working remotely.  In one case, I have been working remotely nearly 100% of the time for the life of the project. In fact, I have not been to the client's location for nearly a year now.

If you were to ask any of my clients about my productivity, there would be no question in their response that I was considered one of the most productive members of the project(s) assigned to me. I truly believe this is a direct benefit of being 100% remote — which allows me to control distraction levels far differently than if I were in a non-remote situation.

In my personal office, I have the ideal setup to meet my daily needs. My desk and systems are set up in a way that allows me to work in a focused and productive manner — more than provide a look that seems aesthetically pleasing. The large window in my space, while giving a beautiful view and natural light, offers endless space to capture my tasks and thoughts — using the assistance of some window crayons.

Equipped with a set of noise-canceling headphones, the Boom 3D app on my MacBook Pro provides an awesome sound, as a play whatever music I feel like listening to from my Amazon Music account. When my family sees the office doors closed or my headphones in use, they understand that I am in a focused mode.

With an ideal personal office setup, this focused mode allows me to work through challenges and issues in a manner that rivals my performance in non-remote or partially remote situations.  This is largely because there is a continued effort of productivity — building upon the prior day’s accomplishments and distractions. As a result, I have found when having to depart the remote situation to be on-site, the time lost from making that transition causes similar effects related to task-switching in an Agile environment.

You may also like: Working From Home Boosts Performance by 13%.

Focused Communication

While working 100% remote, the worker is fully in charge with their desire to communicate. Too many times, working in a non-remote situation, the distractions from activity or conversations around me led to a loss in my ability to produce effectively. I feel like this is simply human nature and the result of social interaction.

In my current situation, I am able to mark myself as "Away" in tools like Slack, Amazon Chime, and Microsoft Teams. I am also able to silence my phone and even close my email client. Now, the ability for some pop-up messages cannot impact my ability to stay on-task with my current assignment.

However, when I am ready to communicate, the process is quite simple. Upon sending some form of message to the target person or groups, an event in Slack, Amazon Chime, or Microsoft Teams can allow everyone to collaborate — even when none of us are in the same location. In fact, with my current project, most of the time, no one is close to me from a geographic perspective.

These tools allow team members to communicate as needed, and I have found doing so allows communication to be focused, allowing a quick resolution to challenges or requests for information.

Impact on Environment

As one might expect, there is a positive impact on the environment when working 100% remotely.  I no longer have to worry about any unexpected traffic delays during my commute.  I also do not have to fill the gas tank of my vehicle as much in order to make the drive to a non-remote location.

Instead, I often work during those same times others would be spending trying to reach their destination.  Even my closest client drive over the past three years is a thirty-minute commute, causing an hour each day of doing nothing but carry myself from one location to another.  While an hour does not seem like a lot of time, it does equate to about 31 days a year ... which is more than a month's worth of working days.

Other benefits, like a reduction in pollution or a corporation's ability to reduce their real estate footprint size, could be part of an entirely different article.  This article is more focused on employee-based benefits.

Expected Culture of Changing workforce

For years, I have been in a position to interview and hire team members. As such, I feel like I maintain a strong handle on what is important to those in the market to change their employment.

During my interviews over the last five years, there has not been a single interview where the individual failed to ask about the ability to work remotely. In follow-up questions, I have been able to fully comprehend that this is an important issue for key people I wish to retain.

In fact, when I look at that generation that is closer to college graduation than to retirement, the need to work remotely is equally important... or even more important... to the starting wage offered to the candidate.

I truly believe that those who are technically strong and eager to produce results fully realize their level of productivity is far higher when being in a position that allows for fully remote contributions.

Less Than 100% Matters

Decision-makers often take the strategy to allow employees to work remotely during certain time periods. While this is a step in the right direction, the gains from taking this approach are not as significant as allowing a 100% remote situation.

As noted above, this is similar to what Agile experts have referred to as the consequence of task switching. When asking an individual to work in an office during a designated time period and allowing remote work for the remaining period, the individual is impacted. 

Some key areas of impact are noted below:

  • Making sure everything is transferred from one location to another.
  • Getting into the cognitive mode of working in a different environment.
  • Organizing everything in a way to matches the current environment.

Impacted elements take time to get resolved, which certainly have an impact on the individual’s productivity. This is why I am not a fan of a "less than 100%" remote option, especially when that percentage is only one or two days a week.


In a lot of ways, the desire to work remotely has a similar degree of importance as dress code was earlier in my career.  While I certainly dawned a suit and tie for my employer or manager, I would have much preferred to wear something more comfortable.  Like all personal priorities, the inability to meet such needs at one opportunity would add to the attractiveness of another opportunity which was more in-line with current expectations.

When corporations fail to see that the needs of the employee are changing - especially for something that can be controlled, the ability to retain key talent is only a reality until the employee finds a new option which meets their expectations.  Personally, I have seen a corporation's failure to adapt to employee expectations cause a very strong group to be lessened to a sub-par team no longer qualified to meet the needs of the organization.

The odd part of this situation, very much like the dress code situation, is that I truly do not understand why something so easy is so difficult for decision-makers to face and adopt.  While the coronavirus is not a good situation for us as a collective society to work through, I do hope something good will come from the information gained by asking individuals to work remotely 100% of the time.

Have a really great day!

Further Reading

productivity, remote working, web design & development

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