The Positive Lesson We’re Learning from Working from Home

By: Michael Hotchkiss, Director of Sales, SB&W

For the last several weeks, the citizens of the United States have been in various stages of uncertainty, concern, and fear. Even for people lucky enough to be unaffected by illness or job loss, the coronavirus outbreak has made “business as usual” a distant memory.

SB&W employees on video conference

With millions of people now working from home, it has become clear that this is an era-defining situation that will bring about long-term changes in our world. The degree of those changes is yet to be determined and will likely vary depending on a number of factors, but here is a perspective from my personal, admittedly more fortunate situation.

I’m on day 18 or so of operating from my own private office, a.k.a. my former man-cave, which is outfitted with a treadmill, spin bike, enough barbells to keep Popeye busy for a year, a 65” Smart TV, full bathroom, four recliners for swigging buddies during football season, and a gas fireplace. While I was thankful every day for this space, it was sadly underutilized.

Now, that underutilized space has become my operational headquarters, and I am even more thankful. While others may have to eke out work space in a crowded home or apartment, I have the luxury of three screens plugged into my trusty Lenovo and a wide screen webcam to facilitate the frequent Zoom/Teams/WebEx meetings that have become the daily routine.

I don’t miss waking up at 5 a.m. to miss the New York-bound traffic on I-95 South, nor the departure from my office in Stamford, when I could look forward to a 20-mph average speed northbound on I-95 starting at 3 p.m.

These days, I get up, walk the dogs, turn on my desk light, send morning greetings to the team and am ready to start my day at 7:30 a.m., a scant 45 minutes from my new wake-up time. Sequestered in my cave, I stream Pandora or Spotify pretty much all day, keeping it at low volume as I host or participate in a constant stream of video conferences.

My “new normal” has its ups and downs. I like being near my wife and my dogs all day, every day. It’s like one long weekend! Except it’s not. Work must be done, and adjustments must be made to accommodate the new reality, but the point is, this works for me. I am just as productive as I was in an office, and I get more sleep than I used to.

As we all know, this is a truly life-altering scenario, and one from which many companies will unfortunately not recover. Thankfully, our company is doing just fine under the circumstances. Things in our industry have changed for many reasons, but our ability to handle the work has not.

The beauty of technology has enabled us to maintain a high level of camaraderie and teamwork, most notably via apps like Zoom that let us conduct virtual company meetings. It takes some getting used to and it’s not always simple even to take turns saying hello, but everyone is there and smiling and participating.

When all this is over, I will return to fighting traffic on I-95 and my man-cave will go back to being underutilized. What won’t change is the knowledge that we are flexible and adaptable and can operate effectively as a company and as people in a different way. And that is not a bad thing.