Workplaces around the United States are starting to re-open. One by one, cafes are re-opening the doors, nail salons are welcoming customers, retail stores are dusting off the shelves.
The first office workers are resuming the daily commute, awkwardly trying to maintain a six-foot gap in tiny elevators and trying to figure out exactly what’s rotting at the back of the staff refrigerator.
Much has changed about the way we work. Small businesses went into survival mode, coming up with all manner of creative solutions to keep cash flowing. People working in professional services learnt how to set themselves up for success while working from home, without the constraints of suits or water-cooler conversations and without being able to hide behind presenteeism.
Some of us are looking forward to going back to the office. Others are feeling anxious. Whatever you’re feeling is perfectly normal; there are only so many times we can use the word “unprecedented.” But what if you’re thinking about not returning to the office at all?
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Nikki McGuire is the founder of Beacon Co-Work, a shared office space based in Reno, NV. It started as a side-hustle that got her into an entrepreneurial space, and she’s been in business for about two years. The rest of the time, she works as a senior clinical project manager for a company that does medical device research, managing everything from the logistics of new studies to billing.
She’s worked remotely for about a decade, and she had the idea when she realized there was enough demand to justify a second co-working space in “The Biggest Little City in the World.”
“It gets a little tiring to be at home all the time,” she explains. Her job is busy, and as she works in a medical-adjacent field, there has been no slowdown due to the outbreak of COVID-19. In fact, the company has begun working on some virus-specific projects, with technology such as ventilators.
“I’m probably busier than normal. Working at home, your work never leaves. If something is nagging me – like at 10 o’clock at night – after my son goes to bed, I’ll probably be at my computer working and just emailing things out and getting things done. It’s a drawback of being at home, because I’m not separating my work life at all.”
This is a common problem. At the end of a long day in the office, the act of walking out the door creates a physical separation between work and home. Many new remote workers find this aspect exhausting, because no matter what you’re doing, work is always in the back of your mind.
Co-working businesses have undoubtedly taken a hit in recent weeks, as social distancing practices have required people work from home. Nikki says that while some members have chosen to withdraw from Beacon Co-Work, most have opted to stay in and plan to return when it’s safe.
“Obviously, co-working is intended to be a place where people can go when they don’t want to work from home,” she laughs. “I’ve given people the option of continuing to go to the office. It’s locked 24/7, so it’s technically closed to the public. Some people with private offices are still coming in.”
There has been a downturn in inquiries, but she says many people are subscribing to the newsletter. She speculates it’s because many new remote workers simply don’t want to work from home anymore. When this is over, she says, it’s looking like there will be a strong uptick in membership.
Therein lies an opportunity for remote workers in professional services. This is the new normal, and there has never been a better time to ask what you want and make your work fit around your lifestyle. If you’re thinking about not returning to the office at all, this could be the solution.
Typically, remote working goes one of two ways. Either you power through your normal workload in a fraction of the time; or you procrastinate and stay in your pajamas, eating cereal straight from the box, scrambling to finish things at the very last minute when you feel a very real fear of being fired.
Again, this is perfectly normal – hey, we’re all adjusting to a big change.
“Given emotional climate of what’s happening right now, some people may be less productive at home. (Businesses) may see their workers are less productive when they’re at home, the emotional climate and the weight of what’s happening is definitely going to be a factor in whether or not some folks are more productive at home or less productive at home,” Nikki says.
“If people are smart, they’ll see this as an opportunity to prove they can be just as productive at home, and they’ll have that option in the future.”
There will never be another opportunity like this to stop, take stock of your business, re-evaluate your plan and craft a work-life balance that actually suits you and your employees. Look for opportunities in the market (like Nikki did). Take risks. Be bold. Change the way you work.
Beacon Media + Marketing specializes in helping professional services businesses rebrand. Whether you’re a dentist, an educator, an architect or an insurer, we’ll support the future of your work.
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