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Leadership, Workforce Planning

In Crisis Lies Opportunity – Working from Home

When the Chinese talk about Crisis, they talk about Danger and Opportunity. Sometimes we miss the latter because we are so captivated by the former.

Therefore, let’s discuss the chances and opportunities we have now to redefine our future. And, let’s just think about one not completely new topic: working from home.

Crisis = Danger and Opportunity. Working from home

Not everyone can work from home

Putting aside the obvious, not everyone can work from home. If we want to make cars, it is very unlikely that we get a set of supplies delivered to home where we assemble the car. And, not everyone has a blast furnace in the backyard or a rolling line in the basement.

Most of the healthcare workers are needed at the hospital where the real action is. And, I am sincerely thankful for that. My mum is a nurse. Thank you, Mutti.

However, the decision whether I need to go to the hospital or just get some medicine delivered home is made on phone or video chat with a doc or a pharmacist. Some of them do that from home. Great! If I want to donate blood, I cannot upload it from home. Not yet.

Nevertheless, the service sector is huge. And in this sector lies the opportunity to establish policies, processes and human relationship that enable work from home. This opportunity exists for many functions in the manufacturing world, too.

There will be the need for innovation to overcome some obstacles. It is worth doing it. It is not an option!

Why should we work from home

As a society, we would gain a lot if we would rethink the way we live, work and spend our spare time.

Every morning, we move multiple tons of expensive industrial waste (that is our Prius with 1.3t, X5 with 2.2t or Q7 with 2.4t) per family from the Singapore East Coast to Raffles place and the same way back in the evening. Often multiple cars per family. Every day. On the way, we meet our neighbours doing exactly the same on their Lexus and Toyota. This way takes about 30 to 45 min one way in Singapore, is mostly frustrating and costs a decent amount of petrol and all the running costs for maintaining the industrial waste. Every day. Is this really necessary?

Every day, about 102,000 plane flights are performed pumping about 190 Million litres of kerosene in the air. Every single day. Is this necessary? If we manage our organisations and our family life slightly better, we can do far more for the environment than Greta and Kyoto together.

Whenever our airlines report record revenue, they basically report that they have increased the speed of killing our environment. And, that applies for many numbers in our GDP. Is this really the right way of running our economy and preparing it for our kids? Can we rethink this? Now is the opportunity. Now is the time.

Working from home is a paradigm shift

As a friend mentioned recently, her boss is not completely comfortable with her working from home. That means her boss might be a micro manager who has little trust in the staff. This manager needs to rethink his way of managing. That is something the manager needs to work on anyway, with or without the virus. Now, there is the need. Use the opportunity. Set policies and invest some trust. This is an investment in staff development – and in leadership capability.

As far as I know, our Ministry in Singapore has been supporting telecommuting with appropriate policies and with financial means  for a long time. The take-up has been behind the offers. Use the opportunity now.

Nowadays, we visit our clients on video. I must admit that I did not like that at the beginning. But, it works. We can discuss what needs to be discussed and we do our business, nearly as usual. These days, many organisations will recognise that expensive business trips can be replaced with such video conferences. We could have done so before. But many “important managers” preferred to do their much more interesting and lucrative business trips. I know the feeling of appreciation by the stewardesses because of your mileage account. It is nice. But necessary? Can we grow up, please?

And, imagine daddy spending much more time with his kids – because he has no choice at the moment, and no excuse. And, he cannot go on business trip where his lover waits. He cannot go to the bar with his friends. He has to stay at home. This is new for daddy and this is new for the kids who need to switch from Tagalog to English or Chinese. But it is certainly good for everyone. The kids will very likely get used to this new situation and want daddy more often. Of course, the same applies to all working mums.

Working from home is not just fun at home. It is actually about working. When I started working from home in Germany, my kids were teens. In order to make them understand that I sit in my office – often on the phone – in order to get work done, I was wearing proper outfit and a tie. Tie up meant, daddy is at work. Tie down meant, it was ok to disturb him.

It is a challenge at the beginning. But it is a very good one. Try it.

“Cannot” Cannot – Change!

Change usually needs a pressing need. That one is given. This need is so pressing that there is no way to argue. That is a perfect prerequisite for change. Now we have a chance to rethink and innovate what we do and especially how we do it. At home and at work.

Crisis breeds opportunities. Use the chance. Change!

And, keep in mind: others will do so. You know what happens if you don’t.

Take care.

coronacovid-19crisisopportunity

Uwe H Kaufmann

Dr Uwe H Kaufmann is the founder of Centre for Organisational Effectiveness, a business advisory firm operating out of Singapore. As consultant and coach with many years of experience, his passion lies in supporting organisations to improve their effectiveness. Uwe is a German national and Permanent Resident of Singapore. He has four children and nine grandchildren … and counting.

3 Comments
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  • Chiang Meng
    11:23 PM, March 2020

    I must agree with the timing that the opportunity presents itself now and Management should leverage on this opportunity to effect a permanent change in …. their thinking!!

    • Uwe H Kaufmann
      1:09 PM, March 2020

      Thank you, Chiang Meng. Having nine grand children by now I am deeply concerned what kind of world we leave to them. I don’t like what I see every day. We can do better. Let’s start now.

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