Working from home is not viable for small businesses [Video]

So, how many people are working from home? It seems to be such a big deal, and talked about so much these days. I don’t think it’s viable. 

From my view, work used to happen in a gathered community prior to COVID and we would actually have advantages in that community. We’d be able to talk together and work together in a way that I just don’t think is possible when people are physically scattered each in their own separate little space. 

This is a transcript of the video, provided for those that prefer reading:

And especially for small companies, I don’t think that office staff can work remotely. Work quality and productivity slip. But senior staff who are really competent and paid well can work from home. They understand how to do it. But if you’re a small company, you’re hiring lower quality staff and you’re not paying a $100k salary or something like that. I think the competence of being able to really process things carefully and productively and efficiently through the day, I think slips when you’re not around other people.

Let me give you an example in my own life that happened long before COVID. I had a guy that I was working with that started a company to develop an app. And he wasn’t working in the same city I was. I knew he had the skill: he was really great at what he was doing. But I didn’t realize he also had a side hustle. And his full-time job was to build this app and then help me launch it. 

I was surprised, as the business just started to fail and then finally folded, to hear that actually his dream job had been his side hustle and he was really not giving my company the full time and attention it needed. So I had all the metrics set up for him but he just wasn’t in my city. We weren’t together. We had not met very often at all except on the phone, on video and it just didn’t work. So he was long gone and I was left holding the bag. I don’t think that would have happened if we were in the same city– if we were actually both working in the same office.

Of course with COVID, everything’s disrupted and the mandate of work from home became absolute for a couple of years. I noticed how some mature and skilled people actually flourished in a remote work situation. But for a lot of my clients, they were small businesses and I, as a consultant, would really struggle with the efficiency and the productivity that tended to slip when people weren’t in the office. There isn’t the creativity of having a consistent personal reaction from other people and that push-pull.

What about me? Do I feel comfortable working from home? Yeah, I do but it’s not easy. I find that there’s a triple threat when working from home. There’s boredom that hits me. I think that even as I plan this video, which was months ago, trying to get around to it: I needed the discipline of having other people around that were in close proximity. Working together even on different projects but working together to get something done. 

Loneliness would be the second one. I need people around me. If you’re with me in the same coffee shop, even if you’re not working on the same thing. It helps me not to be lonely, not to feel like this is just too much. And then third is distractions. There’s distractions when we’re in the office together but for me the intrigue of just a click away, say, the politics on the news cycles: in the U.S or Ukraine or even Kenya. I can take a news break at home and no one’s going to care. But in the office at least you’ll notice, “Hey, you’re slacking off! You’re just looking at some sort of news thing and you’re not actually working.” 

So I just feel that sense of the drum beat and the almost urgency of getting things done when I’m around other productive people. That’s the triple threat I have: loneliness, boredom, and distractions.

I think another thing is just the close proximity. I had a client, or still do, a really great client who’s working in construction. I would work with them long distance through numerous issues long-distance. I mean, only an hour away, but then I decided for a few days each week I would actually take it– my computer and go to his office and just work from there. What a difference that made! I could see through the day the stresses, the great, both the buoyancy of the office and the depression of the office. The things that were not a great idea, processes that were not adding any value, and then not to mention the boss– the client himself who was just really thankful that I could be there just to chat with him just to work things through.

There is a place for working remotely, and we do have remote workers in my last two businesses. At JusTea Beverages, we have all of our staff basically in Kenya because they are– that’s where we started the business. It wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t cheaper but we decided to partner with Kenyan people to process this great tea. And that’s where our partners are. 

The same with our present business, Reconcile Business Consulting. It was founded first in the Philippines and they’re not moving here. We need to work with them as skilled bookkeepers to bring their skills to North America via remote work. And we recognize that this really adds value. Both of these JusTea and Reconcile Business Consulting add huge value to the countries that we’re working in, but also to our lives, so yeah, I think there’s a place for remote work.

But I’d appreciate your thoughts. I don’t think the place is for you to say, “Hey, I can sit at home. I don’t want to spend half an hour or an hour traveling across town to be with you; I’d rather just sit at home and work here.” I don’t believe that’s valuable. I think a gathered community of working people has incredible value that you’re missing out on. And that advantage of not being physically together can really hurt both you as the individual, and the community as a whole of business people working in the same business. So there’s times to be remote, times to be gathered. There’s a rhythm that has to be thought of as both: not one or the other. I’d like your thoughts. You may want to push back on me and I’m happy to hear that but I’ll look forward to hearing from you.

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