David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
NOT Traveling Blog, 3rd Week Of January 2021
David Danto’s ongoing list of disjointed and occasionally random observations and thoughts as we wait-out the pandemic – mostly NOT traveling like we used to.
As many of you know, I work in the collaboration technology industry – I help organizations and individuals successfully plan-for and use videoconferencing and similar tools. I’ve been writing about, speaking about – honestly screaming till I’m blue in the face about the benefits of smarter working / working from home for nearly two decades. Some firms did get their remote collaboration ecosystem ready for something like this pandemic, but most did not. (As a reminder, I actually predicted this kind of scenario – albeit with no idea how long it would go on – in my blog in 2014.) By the time the extent and gravity of this pandemic was finally obvious to all, just about all organizations with knowledge workers – and individuals – finally scrambled to get their technology ready.
Pre-COVID, the general (and totally incorrect) opinion of remote workers was that they were “lazy” and “unproductive” (despite the research done that showed both of those comments to be untrue.) Infamously, firms like Yahoo and IBM called their remote workers back to the office to address incorrectly perceived problems. Pre-COVID, video and “Telepresence” systems were pitched to global corporations because of all the “travel savings” that would ensue.
I’ve spent over a decade calling BS on claims like those. They were simply incorrect. Scapegoating remote employees for inherently poorly managed companies was always a smoke screen. Having technology salespeople (often colleagues and friends of mine) preach about how much savings firms would realize by no longer buying air travel was always a lie. I wish it hadn’t taken a devastating global crisis to finally prove that I was right…but here we are.
What we’ve all learned throughout this crisis is what I’ve been saying all along:
• Remote employees showed increased productivity – to the point of complaints about “video fatigue” and very long workdays
• Collaboration and videoconferencing technology’s savings opportunities were never really based around reduced business travel (to clients, customers, conferences, etc.) but rather on the significant savings coming out of the elimination of the daily commute – both in money and in the improvement to the environment. We’ll all still fly as needed once it’s safe again, but we won’t automatically go to an office to do individual work anymore.
• The biggest potential savings from the use of collaboration tools is in reduced Real Estate costs, as offices morph from places of individual work to places that support group work.
As organizational leaders realize that knowledge workers no longer have to have permanent workstations in a traditional office, they begin to see the obvious – they are paying for more traditional office square-footage then they really need. A friend recently sent me an (unofficial and unconfirmed – so I’ve hidden the firm names) list of rentable space now available in Manhattan, NY. It is jaw-dropping:
These are significant changes that will drive societal change. As I described in my 2021 predictions blog, it is like a series of dominoes – the fact that the first few have fallen means the rest falling will be inevitable. Here are the most important ones that everyone should realize:
So, ultimately, I don’t think that business travel – once it’s safe again (which it most assuredly is NOT today) – will face pressures from collaboration technology. There is ZERO evidence that that will happen. However, there is significant evidence that “the office” will never again be what it was pre-pandemic, and that our homes and apartments will see the inclusion of professional workspaces into the future.
As you look for your next dwelling, it likely will no-longer be within about an hour’s train or car ride to your office. It likely will be near what is more important to you and your family – better schools, near relatives, as quiet or bustling as you prefer, etc. – as long as it is near an airport. And, don’t be surprised if the listing reads “Beautiful, furnished two bedroom, two bathroom, two workstation residence...”
As always, please feel free to write to me with comments or items I should add to a future Not Traveling blog (or if you just need someone to write to.) Stay safe, be well, hug those you’re sheltering with (but no one else) and do your best to stay positive. We’re going to be in this for a while longer.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.
The Explanation for my Not Traveling blogs: In 2014 I was voted by USA Today readers as one of the top ten business travel bloggers in the USA. Now mind you, I turned out to be number ten on the list of ten, but I did make it on (with my thanks to all those who voted.) Now that we’re all stuck at home and not traveling, I had to think about what to do with my blogs. I could stop writing them entirely – waiting till we all get through the current COVID19 pandemic / crisis. I could wax nostalgic and/or complain about past trips. Or, I could focus all of my efforts on my day job – growing the use of collaboration technologies – especially in light of how many people are now forced to use those tools for the first time. In reflecting upon those choices, what I decided to do is compile an ongoing list of observations during the crisis. Some of these may amuse, some may inform, some may sadden and others may help. My goal will be for you to have seen something in a different light than you did before you stopped to read the blog. I was going to apologize for how disjointed these thoughts may seem when put together, but then it dawned on me that feeling disjointed is our new normal – at least for a little while.