Remote working can be a good thing for strengthening close business relationships, says Billy MacInnes
I remember years ago writing an article wondering what impact e-mail and the Internet had on the foreground, personal interaction that signified Ireland’s excessive society and business on a local and national level.
At that time, many still believed that personal meetings would be a very important part of business and customer interaction. Understood so. Ireland, which is more than the UK or US, is a country that relies on social interaction on a physical level.
People love to get to know those they work with, shake hands, look them in the eye, talk to them face to face. In many ways, there is a stronger social element to business in Ireland than in many other countries.
But while Ireland may not be as quick to embrace new ways of doing business as some other countries, there is no doubt that it is moving in that direction. Most of us have become comfortable doing business over the phone, internet and through e-mail. We order and buy a lot of goods on the Web.
It brought advantages in terms of geography and reach. Traveling to Ireland is not always easy. Roads can be bad and alternative modes of transportation are limited.
It is difficult for most businesses, especially SMBs, to have a physical presence in sufficient parts of Ireland to provide a service to customers across the island effectively. E-commerce and the Web have made it easier for them to reach customers across the island and deliver goods to them.
Ireland’s geographical location around Europe has been facilitated to a small extent by the ability to communicate and remotely sell and buy from businesses on the continent.
The physical trade barriers currently being built between Ireland (as part of the EU) and the UK have an impact on how businesses on this island trade, with whom they trade, and where they choose to trade.
From a physical perspective, this requires bypassing the UK to a greater extent in terms of where we source products from the economy and where we can most effectively export larger amounts of our products and services.
In this regard, we have been fortunate, to some degree, that business behavior has shifted so much from face-to-face, physical contact to remote communications and virtual meetings.
Comfort is king
The impact of the lockdowns since the Covid-19 pandemic lasted has been to speed up the process of making virtual and remote connections the de facto way of doing business for all companies in Ireland (and most others. other European countries). Video conferencing has replaced physical face-to-face conference. Applications such as Zoom and Teams have replaced meeting rooms and have done so very effectively in most cases. While facing the inconveniences of lockdown, people have discovered the convenience of remote working and remote meetings.
Face-to-face meetings and personal interactions aren’t completely gone, but we’ve seen a world where it’s made and it’s not as terrible as some people think. Thus, it is unlikely that businesses and their employees will return wholeheartedly to the former things.
There will be some personal mixing and interaction but less than that. One of the things businesses don’t notice, even if they enable a higher level of remote interaction with their customers, is how to apply that trend to the way they work. After all, your customer is someone else’s employee and vice versa. They are both human beings so why would they want one thing as customers and another as employees?
Many people tend to forget that employees can get strong personal benefits with the convenience of spending more of their time working remotely. And no matter how far it is, how much more can you earn personally than working from home?