By Nicholas W. Stuller
During catastrophic events there is usually something good that comes from them, although with this Coronavirus it can be very hard sometimes to see any positive developments. For sure however, some things will change and change forever.
A change that is likely permanent and encouraging is that working from home is a viable option for a much larger percentage of people than previously thought. To be fair, working from home is not for everyone nor for every company. This will be true even for companies and roles that technically can support a permanent position from home, but for a variety of reasons is not the best option long term. What has become very clear is that a great many people have been able to function in their roles working from home, and it took a national crisis to make that point on such a large scale.
I have personal experience over the last 18 years with having permanent team members work from home. I have founded/co-founded three financial technology companies where we had people at all levels always working from home. It works quite well, but like all things has its downsides. My reasons for having fully remote team members started with simple economics: the best person for the job at that time was not in commuting distance and we could not afford to relocate them or they could not relocate for personal reasons. My decision was to hire the best person and cope with them being far away. I quickly learned that this was very often a best-practice going forward. This also can serve additionally as an investment thesis for future opportunity.
Here are some of the benefits I learned from having fully-remote team members:
Good for the Company
When management no longer confines a position to a geographic area, the number of candidates available to choose from increases dramatically. The best person for an open position might be half way across the country and the difference between hiring your #1 pick versus #2 pick is usually significant. It can be less expensive too as the employee does not use up costly office space, supplies and other related overhead. There have been studies over many years showing employees are more productive too working from home.
Good for the Employee
Many people prefer working from home. No commute, no costly dry-cleaning, lower food costs and overall quality of life is usually much higher when working from home. For people that enjoy working from home, nearly all would never go back to an office setting if given the choice.
Good for Families
Working from home almost always means you end up spending more time with your spouse and children. Depending on what the former commute time is, the hours of simply seeing and spending time with family has the wonderful effect of a tighter bond for all.
To be fair, I also learned firsthand of the downsides and hidden costs of remote team members. Less face time, a reduction in spur-of-the moment brainstorming, and communication limited to phone & email has a cost that everyone should be aware of. However, the benefits of remote policies far outweigh the costs.
Investing in companies that make remote workers more efficient, or companies that eventually have greater profits due to more home workers might be a fruitful research endeavor. Consult with your financial advisor to help find these companies or funds and see if this current crisis has created a future trend and a new investment opportunity.
Nicholas W. Stuller is the Founder and CEO of MyPerfectFinancialAdvisor, a 30-year veteran of the financial services industry and author of THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOUR WALLET FREE: Secrets to Finding the Perfect Financial Advisor, published in 2018 by Post Hill Press.