Office space used to be a hot commodity and a necessity. However, the prophetic views of the past describing the future of the workplace where someone can do their work from anywhere on the globe, have made small waves of progress in the past ten years or so. Innovations in software for task management, team communications, cloud storage and improved internet band width have all been creeping milestones towards the remote, and interconnected future of the workplace. In 2020, when businesses were forced to closed, many management teams were able to pivot quickly to keep things running by utilizing these tools that had seemingly flown under the radar of most businesses. When faced with the ultimatum of adapt or close for good, it seems that office space has become an antiquated expense. With more businesses contemplating what to do moving forward, it seems that the transition to remote workplaces may be permanent.
Great Range Capital has provided their insight from the point of view of private equity. Here’s what they had to say.
If you’re one of the estimated 16 million Americans who’s started working from home due to the coronavirus, you’re in good company (if we do say so ourselves). On March 16, 2020, the Great Range Capital team transitioned from our office at 1968 Shawnee Mission Parkway to our respective home offices around the Kansas City area.
While we miss normal office life, we recognize that we are lucky—lucky to have jobs and the opportunity to work remotely. We also recognize that even once the pandemic is quelled, work will likely never be the same.
Pre-COVID-19, physical office space was considered to be necessary to get work done. But now that over 60 percent of employed Americans are barred from their desks and around 70 percent of these remote workers describe themselves as being “as productive” or “more productive” from home, conventional wisdom is taking some serious hits.
According to research from Gartner, 74 percent of CFOs expect to move previously on-site employees to permanent remote setups in the wake of the coronavirus. Google and Facebook have already announced that employees who can work from home should plan to do so until the end of the year, and Twitter says remote work could be permanent for most employees. Naturally, office real estate is suffering as large firms rethink office needs and shed unused space in an attempt to save money (though warehouses are hot as e-commerce continues to grow).
There’s no shortage of predictions on what the future of work will be like—both in the office and in homes. Speculation goes from the smallest and most personal of details, like whether we’ll still shake hands with colleagues and clients, to post-pandemic office design and structure, to app-driven communication and promotions.
In the midst of all this turmoil are human beings, like you and like us. And while we love digging into the data and forecasts, we also see value in taking a step back to reflect on the new things we’ve been experiencing and learning in our home offices—often with a hefty dose of humor and self-deprecation.
Read some thoughts from the GRC team below on what it’s been like to switch from a corner office to the corner of a spare bedroom. Perhaps you can relate to things like your kids sharing a bit too much information in the background of conference calls, “apartment-phobia,” the double-edged sword of unlimited snack access, and … umm … uhh … oh, yeah—the struggle to stay focused. Perhaps you even have stories and insights of your own to share.
What were your initial thoughts about working from home? Has your perspective changed?
Desire’ Bates, Office Manager: When all of the changes started happening, I was grateful to have a job where I could work from home. So many people don’t have that opportunity. Also, given the fact that both of my older college kids were home for the rest of the semester, I was happy to have that extra time at home with them. I feel pretty much the same today, but I’m ready for my college kids to get back to school!
Philip Scheuerman, Associate: At the onset, things were exciting, it was fun to have a change of scenery and communication style. Since coming back, I have realized how much more engaging and collaborative the office setting is and how important that is to the culture. That said, the experience has given me found hope in a flexible work community and potential to reduce travel via video conferencing.
Describe your WFH setup. Did you have to make any tweaks when settling in?
Mark Robinson, Managing Director: We have a great office with a full setup to work from. The only real thing missing is a printer and … oh, yeah—doors! The office is right off of our foyer, and while it’s great for when I’ve historically worked (early mornings or evenings after the kids go to bed), the ambient noise of our three kids (all under the age of 6) and their fairly frequent visits make things a bit tricky at times.
Ryan Sprott, Managing Partner: I’ve been working from our home office that beforehand had only been used to pay bills! At first, I was just working on my laptop, but about a month and a half in, I developed left carpal shoulder syndrome (unscientific self-diagnosis) from being hunched over my keyboard all day. I could barely move my left shoulder. I finally broke down and got a full monitor and an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, and my shoulder is starting to feel better!
Has your work wardrobe changed?
Pete Fields, Vice President: While I started off wearing t-shirts and sandals, I quickly realized that I needed to dress as though I was going into work to get into the work mindset. No suits, mind you. More like chinos with polos and button-downs and real shoes vs. slippers or sandals. Also, I’m a big fan of Ulah, a local retailer here in KC. As my dryer seemingly shrank all of my pre-COVID clothes (same dryer for years—crazy how clothes start shrinking during a pandemic), Ulah provided me with some nice business casual threads to keep my head in the game.
Desire’ Bates: I haven’t worn a pair of high heels in months, and I’m not sad about it.
Ryan Sprott: Like many, I haven’t worn anything other than shorts and sweatpants for months, though I’ll sometimes throw on a nicer shirt for a Zoom call. In the midst of COVID-19, we finally got our employee handbook finalized, and we made a permanent change to more casual attire unless needed for meetings.
Have you developed any special routines or tricks that help stay you focused or sane?
Alex Barbee, Intern and rising senior at the University of Kansas: I’ve started running a few times a week just to get out of the house. I also make sure to go downstairs to get a snack or water pretty often just to move, think out loud and get new ideas.
Philip Scheureman: In an apartment (even with a patio), you lack fresh air and space. My home office doubles as my bedroom. Coffee and a run before starting the day gets the wheels turning and helps with the apartment-phobia. I highly recommend it; also helps to curb the effects of snacking.
Are there any aspects about working from home that have improved your work?
Desire’ Bates: I have the opportunity to be completely focused. As the office manager, I normally have frequent interruptions while working at the front desk. Working from home has allowed me to finish many projects, including a certification for our new CRM system.
Paul Maxwell, Managing Partner: We’ll forever be better able to communicate via video conference, which will streamline travel, save time and help us stay in touch with people in a more personal way.
Christie McFall, Business Development Director: As someone who’s worked in business development for many years, I’m accustomed to working remotely. However, the pandemic has forced me to develop new approaches. I can’t jump on a plane or attend a conference to network. I’ve had to figure out innovative ways to connect with people via technology. I’m going to continue using those new skills moving forward, but I do miss traveling and interacting with people. I’m looking forward to getting back on the road.
What’s the most difficult aspect of working from home?
Paul Maxwell: Juggling kids with work has definitely been the hardest part. At one point I was speaking to several people on a video call and my young son came into the room without any clothes on and announced he’d had an accident. Every day is an adventure!
Julia Parkerson, Intern and rising junior at Columbia University: The most difficult aspect of working from home has definitely been the distractions of my family. All four kids are back at our parents’ house, so it’s been nice to be able to spend extra time with them. But at the same time, it’s been hard to stay focused with such a full, chaotic house!
SOURCE: Great Range Capital