WFH a Journey of Trust for Business Owners

Like many of you, I get emails from local businesses in my neighborhood.

Many of these are pedestrian. They say the right things, list the right modifications to their business, talk about new processes. All well and good. The information is certainly appreciated. But, meh. 

Then there are the great emails. And right now, it’s especially important to be great. 

I got one recently from a local yoga studio. It was real. It connected emotionally. And it was honest (at least it felt honest). I’ll have more to say about this standout email further down. 

First, let’s talk about the challenges business owners face in moving to a work-from-home model, either temporarily or (semi) permanently.

Is WFH the ‘New Normal’ for SMBs?

Last week, Charles Laughlin and I hosted a Localogy webinar to share the latest Modern Commerce Monitor™ data. Localogy ran a supplemental wave to the small-business SaaS adoption tracking study the survey in April. The objective was to check-in with local businesses in the immediate wake of the lockdowns. 

One big “ah-ha” from the data was that work from home or remote work isn’t just the new normal for knowledge workers at media and software companies. It’s also become the new normal for small businesses. The survey found that 67% of respondents believe that at least 10% of their employees will be WFH on a go-forward basis. 

I did some simple math and estimated as many as 4 million employees of small businesses could be working from home in the coming months and years. Business owners have a big incentive to make it work, for both health and economic reasons. Reducing exposure to the coronavirus while reducing real estate costs is a big potential win for business owners.

Navigating the Logistics of WFH

For people like me, WFH has been a constant since I left the comfort and constraints of corporate life back in the late 1990s. 

I began my WFH journey at The Kelsey Group, which saved thousands of dollars a year by not having to incur the office (or relocation) expenses of as many as 10 professionals. It wasn’t always easy. Looking back, technologies like Zoom would have come in handy for both internal discussions among the analysts and external conversations with clients.  

We’ve come a long way since then in terms of the technologies that small and local businesses operating remotely can leverage. When I first started my WFH life at The Kelsey Group, we talked every day on landline phones. The company paid for those landlines as well as Internet connectivity — slow as it may have been back then. 

So Many Questions for Operators

Today, as local business owners have been forced to send many of their employees home to work, they’ll need to figure some things out. Do they really need to pay for Internet service that in all likelihood are already part of the employee’s personal expense budget?

And what about that mobile phone? Will the front desk person who’s now working from home in their pajamas use the personal mobile phone or will they have to get a second phone for work?

And while we are at it, what about a computer? At the office, that front desk person probably had a big shiny monitor on their desk. Does that unit go home with the employee, or does the business owner need to buy a new one?

A Tough Transition

This will not be an easy transition. Most business owners are used to face time with their employees. The personality type of many local business operators is more “command and control” than “live and let live”. These business owners will be looking for software tools and solutions that make this transition as smooth as possible.

MCM Wave V-2 data illustrates pretty clearly that this shift to WFH will involve considerable growing pains. The data shows a fair degree of anxiety about the WFH model among local business owners.

Yes, they’re concerned about things like data security and privacy. Yes, they’re concerned about software and upgrades.

Above all, what they are really concerned about is productivity. Sixty percent of respondents said they’re either moderately or extremely concerned about the productivity of their employees. 

Overcoming the Trust Barrier

I understand productivity concerns. But with record unemployment levels, it’s unlikely many new WFH employees will take advantage of the situation to sneak off to the beach instead of working.

Rather, I would expect many new hires and old hands alike to double down on delivering value for their employer. Perhaps they’ll be more productive at home. After all, WFH means no windshield time, no water cooler time, no long lunches. 

There is a big opportunity to help local businesses deploy technologies that enable WFH.

They’ll need advice and counsel on how best to manage remote workers. They will need help in making their data secure. 

A Stellar Local Business Email: “Blame It On The Rain”

Now, back to that great email from the local yoga studio owner. I’ve highlighted the sentences that resonate with me. Which ones resonate with you?

Today has been rough, I don’t know if it’s the weather (“whatever you do, don’t put the blame on you…blame it on the rain…yeah….yeahhhhhh” Milli Vanilli) or that my first goal of the day was to vacuum the house or that our first stream of the day failed or that it’s Monday. Yes, like you, I am frustrated and impatient for things to change. 

In between whining and complaining, I had some delicious sweet and sour soup, a solid call with some of our staff at MPY and good news from a friend about his health and the house is cleaner than when I started. With a slight shift in perspective, the day has gone from doom and gloom to possibly a good day.

What’s really crazy, is all of that stuff happened and I was feeling like a loser who was going to fail. I had to separate out the wins and acknowledge them to create a small opening, space for something new to grow. It wasn’t planks or warriors or inversions that changed my mood, it was a conscious effort in my brain, I had to think about it. 

What does success look like today? This is something we have to be clear about and define. I have my health and that should be enough, but it isn’t. I have to do little tasks, check things off my list, even if it is meaningless (make list, check), to have small moments of victory (yes, the dishes are getting done a lot these days). More importantly, I have to do something for someone else, besides me. It is a basic human affliction, being of service to others creates happiness within us. This translates to, I have to work to be happy. Sound familiar? It should, we are all hard wired this way.

Depression affects all of us. It takes over silently and drains our energy until we feel helpless. It is a trap. 

What? You want answers? A Solution? Start now, today. Do the work. It really doesn’t matter what the work is, like Nike said, Just Do It. Do what? The Work.

Whether it is 20 burpees or a 1 minute wall sit, physical work counts! You can always do some squats or drop into a plank to shift your mood. You can also start a new project whether that is a puzzle or a painting or a book. All of these solutions are great and they will work. I’ve got something better, a pro-tip that will change your life for the better.

Do something for someone else. Seriously. It is that simple. I didn’t vacuum for me, I did it for Amy because I knew she wanted the house cleaned. The saying “a joy shared is double the happiness,” is complimented by the saying “a sorrow shared is half the pain.” 

If you are having a crap day, week, year…let it go. We have so much exciting work ahead of us to rebuild our lives, create and love each other. Take a few breaths, shake off the last few weeks and remember you have an unlimited capacity to give, the same way you have an unlimited capacity to love. If you are having a rough day/week/year, send me a message and tell me about it, I can share your pain and send you some Love.

Jamie

PS – Yes, you are invited to sign up for a new membership with us on our website at https://online.marinpoweryoga.com – $30 a month for Live Streaming and OnDemand classes. This is a huge project for us and I appreciate your support and participation!

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