The abundance of food, toilet paper, and other essentials that we take for granted has seemingly evaporated overnight. Our carefully laid plans for spring vacations and second-quarter growth have been thrown out the window. Our futures are uncertain. We’re in an age of not-knowing.
You may be asking yourselves, as I am:
How is my business going to survive a shutdown let alone a recession?
Should schools close?
Should I buy provisions before your panicking neighbors beat you to the punch?
When should I get my child tested?
In the words of Socrates, “Not-knowing is the beginning of true knowledge.” Before we rush to offer opinions and advice based on unchecked prejudices, preformed assumptions, and dubious information, maybe we could raise more questions, investigate different sources and points of view, and share ideas, resources, and possibilities.
Let us fertilize our collective confusion to generate novel ideas and creative solutions. Together. But how can we do so under self-quarantine?
Is Coronavirus the Catalyst for a Remote Work Revolution?
If you scroll through the news headlines, you’ll see that economics experts and business leaders are wondering whether this coronavirus pandemic will usher in a new era of work. Huge tech firms like Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have all enforced a work-from-home policy while companies like REI are shuttering their stores but offering employees paid leave.
Solutions to the shutdown range from meetings via hologram to more familiar forms of telecommuting, but the core question is: will this crisis encourage a more widespread adoption of remote work? If so, how will that impact workspaces, commute patterns, and perhaps most importantly, work-life balance?
According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 43% of Americans do at least some remote work and 2018 census data shows that 5.2% work entirely from home. For employers, the primary argument against working from home is loss of productivity. Yet, a 2015 study found that when employees switched to working from home they increased productivity by an average of 13%, mostly because employees took shorter breaks and less sick time, but also because they worked better in the comfort and quiet of their own homes.
Another argument against remote work is that reliance on technology erodes effective communication, but these opponents fail to realize that technology in the workplace has already irreparably changed how we relate to one another. Tools like Slack, Basecamp, and Asana have taken over day-to-day communication and task assignment, while video conferencing has supplanted in-person meetings. As we rely more heavily on written communication, we are less able to assess a co-worker’s body language and linguistic cues to form nuanced relationships. Even with video conferences, we tend to only communicate with colleagues when we have a “good enough” reason to. Thus, the absence of “water cooler conversations” is a mixed blessing: more productivity, but less personal connection.
This disconnection from coworkers and resulting loneliness is the greatest pitfall of remote work. Ironically, it seems that the more digitally connected we’ve become, the more isolated we feel. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The problem is not with the technology itself, but with how we use it. Research shows that when people form work friendships, they are more engaged, happier with their jobs, and perform better. So how can we better leverage the technology at hand so that digital nomads, solo-preneurs, and telecommuters in times of crisis can meaningfully connect to advance their work?
Do It Together in a Digital World
If you work alone – as a freelancer, solo-preneur, or full-time telecommuter – you know how hard it can be to pull yourself out of isolation to collaborate with other Business Artists and share ideas. But collaboration, it turns out, is essential for creative productivity and innovation.
Creative professionals and practitioners often think they must suffer their projects alone, but they are often mistaken. True, we writers, designers, and creative entrepreneurs thrive on solitude. But collaboration helps forge a deep connection with the world around you that can sustain you through the vagaries of a complex project and a creative life.
Digital technology allows us to access countless worlds well beyond our physical reach. Rather than seeing our computer screen as a barrier, imagine it as a portal: a gateway that can transport you to cyber studios with virtual communities of peers who share your passions and problems, and can provide unique insights. If we organize intentional, collaborative opportunities for these communities to engage, we can turn these uncertain times into fertile grounds for productivity and creative problem-solving.
The BASS MasterClass series is one such opportunity.
BASS stands for “Business Artist Strategies & Skills.” Business artistry equips you to learn like a scientist, create like an artist, and earn like an entrepreneur.
Starting in April, I will be hosting a series of online MasterClasses where Business Artists around the world can gain insights as to how they can advance their message in the world, respond creatively to crises, find deep purpose in their work, and make a meaningful impact on people’s lives.
In this time of challenge and change, I invite you to join me in our virtual studio to learn, create, experiment, and explore possibilities for your business and brand, your communities, and the world at large.