How long does it take to form a new habit? I've read articles claiming a new habit is formed in as little as 21 days, some say 66 days, while others suggest it could take as much as 250 days for complex habits to form (for some people). Regardless, by the time COVID-19 accommodations fully become a thing of the past, a year or more will have gone by -- far longer than even the most pessimistic estimates for habit forming. If you consider the changes you've made (and stuck to) in response to COVID, you will recognize some new habits you've formed. And, if these continue, by February/March they will feel pretty comfortable and you might be keeping the changes even after the threat of COVID-19 has passed.
One such change is remote work. Prior to COVID, the technology was there to support virtual teams, but few companies bought into this in any big way; often describing "culture" or process (Agile Scrums?) or fairness to office staff, or lack of control, or... or... or... as reasons not to go all-in on a remote work strategy. Over the past 7 months or so, most "knowledge-workers" have been forced to embrace working from home... and, guess what? Work still got done! Sure, in some cases, there was a transition period where people felt that the accommodations were going to be temporary or short term. But in general, work continued. Companies scrambled to ensure collaboration tools were available for their staff... HR kicked into overdrive to ensure people felt connected and supported. Fun stuff -- remote happy-hour -- team recipe sharing -- virtual mentoring/teaching began popping up to bridge the person-to-person gaps. Introverts (including everyone in my own family) finally have their day in the sun! People began doing what people for millennia have done... they began coping, they made changes that enabled them to carry on and be productive.
And now, we've had a taste of remote work... and many really like it! The majority of the people I've personally spoken with over the past weeks and months have been positive about the changes. No more fighting traffic in the mornings, more time for work AND for home chores -- work-life balance became work-life "fusion" and they've felt more productive overall. If the desire for remote work is pervasive, companies will recognize this and begin offering this option to acquire and retain employees. Competition for top resources is fierce and when the companies who offer remote-work begin snapping up more than their fair share of top talent, other companies will be forced to do so also.
Talent acquisition may be the single biggest driver for companies to embrace remote workers. Areas where high-tech is well entrenched -- Toronto, Vancouver, Silicon Valley -- are expensive to live and often force people into long commutes for reasons of affordability. The tech-companies that call these places their homes are growing quickly and hiring frequently. By embracing a remote worker strategy, they will have access to talent that either can't afford or aren't interested in living in these centers. Local talent pools open up to become a global talent ocean. This was a trend that we began seeing prior to COVID, but now that knowledge workers have remote working experience, we expect this trend to accelerate. Another big driver for business is the savings that can be achieved by reducing the size of their physical corporate footprint. Office space is a big cost item on companies' income statements. They may be able to reduce their office costs by half or more by leveraging more remote work. This is a big enticement for adopting the strategy.
Consultants and contractors, to best take advantage of this shift, it is recommended that you give some thought to your own experiences working remotely. What were some of the challenges that you were able to overcome... what were some of your notable successes? Consider what it is that you've done to be a better "virtual team member" or how you've successfully managed your remote team or how you build value for the companies for which you've worked as a remote member of a team. Find ways to add these successes/best practices into your resume, and be prepared to speak to this should you be interviewed for a role with a remote work component. The genie is out of the bottle... remote work is now "a thing" and, I believe, that it will be much more prevalent than it had been before COVID!
Bonus: Here's a link to a great article that lists 20 work-from-home tips! (There's many, many such article online!)