Worker Decentralization

Worker Decentralization
August 26, 2020 admin
In Podcasts
Managing a distributed, at-home workforce

World circumstances put more people in a work-from-home situation and companies forced to manage it than ever before.

In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the trend and its drawbacks.


Rob Artigo: Rob Artigo here, your guest host for another edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn. I’m a writer and entrepreneur being invited back. Always a pleasure, Ray.

Ray Zinn: Rob, it’s all good to have because you have all these great questions you want to discuss.

Rob Artigo: Well, I think this one’s going to be an interesting topic because with all the pandemic and everything, people’s lives have changed a lot. Many people are working from home. I can’t think of a more glaring example of work from home possibilities than what we’ve witnessed during the pandemic. I read an article by a top UBS executive who laid out some moves by the Swiss bank to tackle the future of work, and they’re rethinking their real estate, its footprint out there. They’re also using lessons from the pandemic to accelerate change in all kinds of different ways.

I know that can be a can of worms in many ways because it can go off in so many different directions, but let’s look specifically at businesses, large and small, startups that can be five or six people to companies like Google or Facebook. I know some people working for Facebook who’ve been working from home for months and months on end and not going into their gigantic campus that they have there in the Silicon Valley. So let’s look at that, extreme staffing levels maybe to just a skeleton crew and so many people working from home. Is reducing brick and mortar footprints for big companies or even small companies, worker decentralization, that’s in not having them at a central workplace but having them work from home, is that the wave of the future?

Ray Zinn: Well, it certainly will be. This is kind of getting off the subject a little bit, but I haven’t been able to get in to see a barber since March. So my wife has been cutting my hair, and she’s learned to cut it and she’s doing a good job. So in my case, I won’t be going back to the barber again. I’ll just had my wife cut my hair. So it’s that similar situation, people having to eat at home now are getting out of the habit of going out to eat. I have a son-in-law, my daughter and her husband, go out to eat four times a week, but they haven’t been able to save pandemic. They’re out of the habit of going out to eat, so they’re just learning to eat at home.

You can talk about whether it be the hairdressers or whether it be the restaurants, they’re all finding that we’re tending to make do with other solutions. For example, grocery stores, you can now order groceries online. So you won’t need the typical footprint in a grocery store anymore because if you order online, you don’t go down the store, you’re just having it shipped to your home. Whether you work for a big company like Apple, or you work for a little mom and pop hair salon, or a barbershop, or whatever, your business is going to suffer or at least the need for your footprint is going to suffer because you got people staying at home. We’re finding out how to live as you would 24/7 in our homes as opposed to living a 15 or 16/7 as you would outside the home. We’re making do with less as you would.

Up where my ranches in Helena, Montana, Macy’s closed their store. It was a big footprint of a huge store, and they closed it. Why? Because there’s just not the foot traffic. People are going online to buy their staff, whether it be shoes, or dresses, or whatever it is.  They’re using online services. The more online, whether it be schooling, or whether it be work, or however, the more online we go, the less brick-and-mortar footprint you have to have.

Rob Artigo: I think about work environments like Micrel, and you have design teams and creative teams. Then, if you think about Facebook and Google, they have very large campuses where people have these creative spaces where they have groups that sit around and talk about things. If we have this decentralization and somebody’s working from home, and you have the, I think, less personal interactions with people with your video chat, your video conferencing that you can do now, there’s tons of technology out there that can do that, but isn’t it different to be in a space like an office in a house somewhere where mostly you’re isolated, whether you’re coding, or drawing pictures, or doing design work on… I don’t know if they use AutoCAD anymore, but I know they used to do that for recreating circuitry and whatnot. But, if you want to have a creative environment, is it counterproductive to have isolation?

Ray Zinn: It is. We’re going to see how it works with this online schooling for the kids. They’re not having the interaction with their teachers. Many families now do homeschool. Homeschool is a form of online. There’s a lot of downside to having as isolation. Now, the technology is becoming better, whether it be Zoom, or Webex, or just about any of the other well-known online video conferencing. They’re getting better. They’re seeing there’s a need to get better because they want to retain their business. They’re making it better, and better, and better.

I mean, the technology is improving tremendously in those online, off-campus or Zoom meetings, as you say, Webex meetings. They’re becoming better, and they’re going to get better, and better, and better so that you can still do kind of collaborative creativity by just having these virtual conference rooms or virtual get togethers. Now, do I think that’s the wave of the future? Yes. Do I think at that we’ll suffer some consequences? Sure. There’s going to be unintended consequences on even this online schooling because people are not going to learn to get along together. They’ve been isolated. The less socialization you have, the more isolated you become, the more intolerant you become. So it’s a tolerance issue that I’m concerned about.

Rob Artigo: Do you think that there are some CEOs or leaders of business out there who are surprised by just how effective working from home can be?

Ray Zinn: I’m not sure how surprised they are. I think how concerned they are is more correct than now surprised.

Rob Artigo: Okay.

Ray Zinn: You have to adjust. Whether you’re a hair salon or you’re a large company, you’re going to have to adjust to change. That book called Who Moved the Cheese? is what I’m referring to here. Your business is going to change, and you have to learn to adapt. If you don’t adapt, you’re going to fail. I do believe that there is some downside on anything. Remember, we talked about that in one of our other podcasts. There’s always consequences to everything we do. What we have to do is recognize those consequences and then work around them so that we have the best outcome.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the negative part of this thing is going to be we become less tolerant, especially less tolerant of others. That does concern me because we’re just not trying to work together and get along. The more we are isolated, the more intolerant become. We become more like recluse. I watch this program called Alone that’s on TV, it’s A-L-O-N-E. They have these contests. They put these people out in these different wilderness situations and then watch them survive. The biggest problem they have out there is just being alone. They’re talking to themselves. It’s kind of funny, they just miss the interaction with people. Then, when they interview him after the show, they say the biggest problem they had was it was not eating, it was just maintain sanity because you can always stand to be alone for so long. It’s like being in solitary confinement.

That’s a punishment that a lot of prisons still have is they put a prisoner in solitary confinement to drive him nuts. If we don’t drive ourselves nuts, we’ll drives our family nuts because of what we refer to as a solitary confinement that we’re seeing. Will we work around it? I hope. I don’t know. I mean, time will tell. We’re very social-type animals, as you would, beings and we like to be around people. I’m not sure that virtual meetings is going to solve that problem.

Rob Artigo: We talked about how businesses or corporations would have to adjust for the circumstances, but you also were just talking about the home and the individual, which it comes down to the individual, what the individual is doing. The listeners out there who are younger people who may end up having to work from home and more isolated, they have to know. This goes to, which we’ve talked about many times on this program, is Tough Things First, your book, which is about dealing with eating the ugly frog first and dealing with the tough things first in the morning so that you’re able to be more productive.

But somebody who is thrust into the situation of being a more social person, being a younger person working in a creative work environment with a lot of people, thrust into a situation where they’re at home… It can be an adult, so it doesn’t have to be just a young person. But for the purposes of my question here, you have to learn to adjust as a person so that you can live in that environment. We’ve talked about exercise on this program as a stress reducer and for many other purposes, but you really have to work into a program that’s different because you have to realize you’re working in a different situation, so you don’t go crazy, you don’t end up feeling like you’re alone and talking to yourself like the program you were just talking about.

Ray Zinn: Well people who are single, living alone single are going to feel this even more. My grandson, unmarried grandson, he’s 21, he’s currently at home primarily because of the pandemic environment. So I was talking to him and he says, “I’m heading back to school.” I says, “Bo, but you’re all shut down.” He says, “Well, the school is shut down but…” He says, “… my social life isn’t.” He misses that social life, so he’s going to go back to school not to go to school, but to be back in that social environment, which he doesn’t have by being at home. That’s going to be an issue for single people, especially young single people, whether it be teenagers or whether it be college kids.

Rob Artigo: Well, it remains to be seen just to how much more effective working from home becomes, how much corporations embrace it, and of course, how much we as individuals can deal with it at home. Certainly, for those folks that you’re just mentioning like your grandson, they’re by themselves, what do they need to survive? Well, they need companionship, they need friendship, they need to be able to communicate with people. And you can’t just do that through video chat. So thank you, Ray. It’s been a great conversation. Join the conversation at toughthingsfirst.com. Bring your questions and comments to Ray Zinn at toughthingsfirst.com. You can also follow Ray Zinn on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Thanks, Ray.

Ray Zinn: Hey, thanks Rob. I appreciate you being here with me today.

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