The coronavirus pandemic is a harsh reminder that the world is changing more rapidly than we can comprehend. And the challenge to learn how to live, work, and do business differently cannot be overestimated. But the change presents real opportunities for some of us: those who have embraced the very different nature and pace of the shifts happening beneath us. Only those will be able to find out what works and how we can capitalize on the opportunities to make transformational improvements in our lives, businesses, and our larger environment.

Declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, the coronavirus outbreak and the ensuing economic downturn or crisis are now compelling us to find new means for living, working, and running businesses. Schools, universities, and religious institutions are all now talking about going virtual. We believe that leaders who succeed at planning and implementing effective remote working programs will have a better chance at not only surviving but succeeding. While remote working is not perfectly right for every role and every organization, leveraging technology that’s been available for some time to help human beings and businesses survive is not just optional now. Every leader will have to address what this means for their organization or their team. The real winners are those who have been in the middle of this transformation for some time and are finding it more straightforward to adjust to the health and economic crises responsibly. Followers who have accepted the reality of change and are considering how to reshape work and the workforce could have good chances at succeeding.

In addition to business continuity and productivity goals, leaders and organizations now have an opportunity to meet some of their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals in new and creative ways. Accommodating remote work imperatives for employees is a means to demonstrate commitment not only to their health and safety but also to the health and safety of the larger community. As we have all learned, carriers can be asymptomatic. And social distancing has now been proven in China as a successful measure to slow down the trend of growth in new coronavirus cases.

Over and above the ongoing global force majeure of coronavirus outbreak, developing the ability within your organization to run virtually when necessary is helpful in many ways:

Working remotely can be a huge cost benefit for companies. Huge savings involve expenses associated with locating and leasing/buying the ideal physical location, purchasing, rental and maintenance. That money can now be allocated to marketing, additional staff benefits, to a cause supported by the company, and/or to improve overall finances. It can also be used to expand the workforce to undertake new initiatives.  The company would also spend less on overhead, and other menial unnecessary expenses which can add up. Also, introducing the remote working culture make organizations and employees better able to save on business travel as they learn how to productively run and participate in virtual meetings and workgroups. These are just some of the cost benefits that can make it attractive to begin the process of encouraging a remote workforce.

We shouldn’t always allow situations to force us into thinking of what would attract some of the best employees, however this more often than not is the case. Otherwise, they will probably end up with competitors who are willing to offer that flexibility. There is a case for working remotely. There are individuals who get more done working from home. Most people who work remotely will have more control as to how time is utilized, display a higher level of commitment, dedication and accountability because they are unsupervised and deadlines become even more important. Businesses who offer remote work opportunities also have a good chance of attracting some of the best candidates because they now have a much larger and more diverse pool to choose from. Attracting a diverse workforce is another key ESG objective.

Also, being able to work from home gives parents with young children the chance to spend more time and flexibility for raising their children just as they would like to. It may even become very convenient for parents to home school their children. Parents who feel confident that their children are safe will be more productive. Trust will be built and diversity and inclusion will be served, meeting ESG aspirations in yet another way. Also, when people have a good work-life balance there is a good chance that you have an employee for the long haul, higher work morale, less absenteeism, an opportunity to engage with other remote workers around the world which helps in expanding their knowledge at perhaps no cost to the employer. Working remotely reduces the pain and time spent on long commutes and unpredictable travel nightmares.

As we experience this new health and economic challenge, businesses will benefit from being intentional in their thinking and staying prepared for testing times. In cases of highly contagious diseases the work will still go on with less disruption unlike the panic and fear that can be caused working together in a huge office space or eventually not being able to work for long time periods. Forward thinking companies must spend more time exploring the reality of the constant changes taking place in the world and the workforce, and the effectiveness, growth and cost savings that come with working remotely. However, going virtual doesn’t come without personnel and operational challenges which we will soon discuss in another article.