Tracking the Trend: Is the Coronavirus a Tipping Point for Virtual Work?

As we endure the potential of quarantine caused by the COVID-19 virus, many are being forced into quarantine. Amazon, Microsoft, and Expedia are asking employees to work from home. Harvard and University of Washington are only holding classes online. My grandson’s first grade class in Bothell, Washington has also gone to online classes for two weeks. Could we be seeing a linear trend toward the virtual workplace?

In this post we address the growing trend for a virtual workplace. We discuss the statistics, benefits, and considerable challenges for Human Resources, managers, and executives. You may also appreciate our previous posts on the COVID-19 Pandemic as we address avoiding panic, engaging your team, providing certainty in uncertain times, and establishing your leadership roots.

Murfield Coaching works with clients to solve significant problems with disruptive thinking. In our executive coaching, training, speaking, and mastermind sessions, we utilize 17 ways of thinking disruptively to shift paradigms and solve specific client problems.  The primary problem facing organizations today is the addressing the Coronavirus and its worldwide reaction.

Is this a Trend?

The numbers are impressive, according to the U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Global Workplace Analytics, the remote and flexible work consulting firm, and FlexJobs, the virtual workplace is a hard, linear trend. New technology is creating significant opportunities for the virtual workplace.

  • Since 2005 remote work has grown 159%.
  • Between 2016 and 2017 remote work grew 7.9%.
  • Over the last five years, remote work growth is at 44%.
  • Over the last 10 years remote work has grown 91%.
  • 3.4% of the total U.S. workforce are remote workers, up from 2.9% in 2015.
  • 4.7 million people in the U.S. currently telecommute, up from 3.9 million in 2015.

The Value of Working Remotely

Working remotely offers an organization several advantages, according to Flexjobs. It raises employee satisfaction and attracts and retains new talent. Remote workers are more productive, healthier, and make more money. No wonder businesses benefit. That flexibility allows the organization to be more nimble with space, expenses, and strategy. Then consider how that curtails the need for roads, parking, and fuel. The environment also benefits.

The Challenges

Managing your team working virtually requires a different paradigm than the “butts in seats” model. Successful leaders of remote teams require a balance of compassion and accountability.

Compassion is coming alongside another to help alleviate their pain. Leading requires we understand their frustrations and then work to alleviate that barrier to their disruptive success. That is difficult enough when everyone works in the same location.

Working remotely creates new types of pain that managers and leaders must address to deliver disruptive innovation. Unfortunately, many managers focus on compliance rather than compassion. Organizational structure and physical presence trumps employee pain and stifled creativity. The square peg must fit in the round hole. Making that paradigm shift is critical to the virtual workplace succeeding. However, it will be challenging.

Accountability is equally important to compassion because it provides the necessary balance. As explained in The ROI of Compassion, too much compassion bankrupts an organization. Everything has limits. Flexibility is great but not if productivity suffers. Employees like independence but not if the goals of the team suffers.

The virtual workplace poses several challenges.

  • How can you maintain productivity?
  • How will you know what your team members need?
  • Do your team members have the physical space to work effectively?
  • Do they have the emotional safe space at home to work effectively?
  • Will they be lonely when not connected to the group?
  • What will it take to maintain team connectivity?
  • Do they have the discipline to work effectively apart from the office and the other team members?
  • What policies need to change to foster their success?
  • What technology will they need?
  • What technology will you need to manage them?
  • What paradigms, perspectives, attitudes, practices, policies, and behaviors among management need to change to foster success?

The Tipping Point?

There are many challenges but this trend is not a matter of “if” but “when?” and “where?” We have reached a point where working from home or any other location is feasible and, in many cases, advisable. (We have probably been there for some time but are only now realizing it.) There are too many benefits for businesses and employees to ignore this trend. This shutdown will convince many who have hesitated that virtual work is a good practice.

However, there are still benefits from person to person contact. We will appreciate each of those benefits during this COVID-19 shutdown. Humans are social animals and businesses need personal interaction. But do we need as much as we have had? Probably not. There are ways that we can use technology to make life easier while making business better.

Contact us today. We want to help you solve your problem and break through in this Coronavirus Pandemic.

Blog Schedule (suspended to provide pertinent information to solve your problems during the COVID-19 shutdown.)

  • Mind Shift Monday features a powerful quote that sets the tone for a week of innovative thinking.
  • Thinking Bigger Tuesday expands on the topic and provides pillar content of innovative thinking.
  • Why Not Wednesday introduces you to books, articles and research that I have found useful in solving significant problems with innovative thinking.
  • Transformational Thursday explores a TED Talk on the topic of the week. These talks are likely taken from the ones I have featured in my TED Talk Think Tank mastermind for radical change over the last five years.
  • Far Out Friday features crazy ideas that just might lead to solving your persistent problem.

Learn to Listen Effectively




Loren Murfield, Ph.D.

We work with leaders and organizations to solve significant problems with innovative thinking. What problem is frustrating you? Contact us today.

The most important books you should have on your self to solve Coronavirus problem are: “The ROI of COMPASSION” and, “Leading with the Power of Compassion.

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