The rise of broadband, construction and the fall of human connect in the digital world
“Telecommuting in the digital space”
I was part of a recent group discussion with few colleagues where the topic at hand was “The rise of broadband, construction and the fall of human connect.”
Since all of us who were part of this discussion were from varied backgrounds and industry and very well in sync with each other’s wavelength, the discussion was fruitful and insightful rather than merely becoming a debate.
I am sharing few highlights from the discussion as points to ponder and would love to hear what each and every one of You has to share about the same.
I am sure each one of you will have some significant aspect and viewpoint to contribute here since we are part of the same trend change which is vividly visible across every walk and aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally.
Over the past two to three years, the significant shift in telecommuting and online purchases has been very much apparent. So much that today there are even talks of companies who sell millions of products online through their sites every year are planning to slowly shut down their online websites and focus merely on selling through their “Mobile apps,” which too, of course will be done online. But it’s shockingly surprising to note such swift changes and that too in such short span of time.
No wonder the global spending on broadband is expected to increase by around $150 billion in the coming two to three years where the spending on increased broadband quality and services will touch base of approximately $550 billion annually.
80% of people in this discussion group, from the total of 14 colleagues, were from 11 different industries who were of the opinion that telecommuting and broadband spend is the only solution.
Solution to what? What was the growing concern with most of them?
But things slowly took a different turn of discussion and very soon we all were part of the same growing concern too.
Well, 20% of the people in this discussion were entrepreneurs (from the following industry – Digital marketing and advertising, web applications and event management) and the others were corporate professionals from the field of Finance, Retail, Publishing, IT, Education, HR, Network Marketing and Hospitality industry.
The biggest common concern each one expressed was transportation, to be specific, the cost of transportation and the time loss that goes with it.
In a chaotic city like Mumbai for eg. An average individual or working professional (who belongs to the middle management level or higher) spends about Rs.6,000/- to at times Rs.9,000/- per month across visits, transportation from work to home etc. and with that around 40 to 50 hours per month of travelling time and in addition to that losing time in this process worth to at least 10% – 15% of his or her productive capacity cost for the company due to exertion, exhaustion and overall stress.
Now from an average mid level entrepreneurs point of view the cost of maintaining an office space with its related costs and maintenance in a city like Mumbai averages anywhere between Rs.5,00,000/- to close to a million annually and that too for a small team of 8 – 12 working professionals.
Another observation from one of the groups senior most professionals and my colleague from the industry of HR with over 20 years of experience with one of the biggest corporate brands in this country was that, telecommuters usually deliver more productive work performance across majority of the industries that can support and make proper use of this process for their business and services.
Reason being, she said, ‘lesser the time and money spent on travel’, the said professionals are ready to cut back even on their salary expectations due to flexible working hours and with lesser stress and time spent on these hectic travels, they end up taking fewer holidays and that too with better work quality.
This was especially true in the case of professionals with at least 8-10 years of work experience in their respective industries since they truly had tremendous discipline of working from home and at the same time valued the time with their loved ones. Here again it was true in the case of doting fathers and women who were new to motherhood and were previously employed with corporate in responsible roles. (Please note: the keywords here are professionals who are self-driven and disciplined).
Recently we have seen a sudden surge in the number of car pool facilities in Mumbai and similarly across cities and countries, with people choosing mass transportation options but those which offer better and more convenient options with comfort to travel with like-minded groups or individuals.
Now as we shifted the discussion thought not completely, but to a certain extent towards transportation, we quickly saw ourselves discussing and connecting the cost and advancement in specialty constructions, which are becoming a need of the hour.
Even though real estate is seeing a plunge across and is expected it seems to further fall, overall the construction industry was voted to boom according to most of our colleagues.
They were sharing insights of growing demand for work / home based constructions and also with respect to specialty constructions wherein even single office spaces were offered to start-ups where the entire construction was built in a way that could support an individual or even group of professionals buying or renting smaller and more customized office spaces to work with.
Overall, the cost of working from offices seem to be only increasing and with that the undeniable rise in professionals choosing to become start-ups today slowly but steadily shows a clear bend towards telecommuting preferences across industries with flexible travel or commute options.
Now, as so many aspects of the increased work from home, higher broadband and related specialty technology focused constructional spaces were discussed, there came an evident facet about the fall of human connect that comes with it.
Now wait a minute, if you are working from home and also, if you are anyway connected with high broadband facilities wherein you can have face-face connect via video calls from time to time, how can there by a fall in human connect?
It was pointed out by few colleagues amidst this group who had experienced and tried working from home too, for at least a period of 1 year and when they compared it with their past experience of reporting to office with traditional work process, they shared that there was clearly a big drop in the way they connected with the same colleagues and even their work style and patterns it seems had brought about noticeable changes. There were positive aspects about their rise in focused work performance and at the same time a major fall in the way they found themselves to be able to socialize with peers and friends with the passage of time.
Now Why and How did that happen?
It was pointed out that in order to keep complete focus towards their work, even while working from home, these corporate professionals ensured that during their work hours they kept themselves in an environment that was completely cut-out from home by isolating themselves in a different room.
The only time they said that they mingled with their families was in case there was some urgent requirement or emergency at home or during lunch time (here again they noted over a period of four to five months, their average lunch time which used to be for about 45 minutes when they were at their offices had now reduced to 15 minutes because of the self-initiated focus and discipline that urged them to perform more and better since they already had a feeling of comfort due to telecommuting).
Now what happened here is that, they were now obviously cut out from their peers at work except for video calls which again over a period of time became more concise, precise and with reduced interruptions about each other’s personal lives, in other words, more formal and at the same time, even though these professionals were still at home, their work focus and the increased desire to prove themselves more, now that they had the luxury of zero travel, resulted in their ‘actual family-time’ becoming almost close enough to what it was when they were working from the office locations, except for the time of commute.
These were some surprising statistics and information in this discussion wherein on one side we saw a massive need and a desperate call for increased telecommuting options and better technological and related infrastructure to make our lives easier and more bearable and on the other, these same increased technological facilities seem to be resulting in a rapid fall in human touch and personal connect.
Nowadays, we can see this happen across industries and our daily lives too, for eg. Malls were a great place to go together as a family or a group of friends and be a part of the social crowd, but with advent of rapid increase in ecommerce and online shopping facilities every location across cities and countries now seems to be having at least one mall in that location that is shutting down due to the same reasons mentioned above.
People are ordering food online instead of going out, movies are being streamed online instead of watching them in theaters, courses and education (certificate courses and short term courses especially) are available online with credentials and merits to add value to working professionals instead of doing or taking part-time classes / courses in colleges. similarly people are buying clothes, groceries and even furniture and other home decor online today. Soon we will see “Online or at-Home medical facilities” being made available and similar strides across industries.
I would love to hear your side of these experiences too. Remember, this is not a debate, not yet.
I just thought it would be wonderful to hear what you think the coming years has to offer to us, both, in terms of advancement and comforts due to technology and the isolation brought about by it too.
Do share your comments and views with me on this.
Have a wonderful weekend ahead.
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