Category Archives: Blog

Work remotely is here to stay…is that a good or bad thing?

Working from home, or working remotely, as some like to call it, has long been a part of the workday set up. Like so many issues in life these days, there seems to be some pretty polarising views on its effectiveness: For some, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened, for others it’s a pain and they can’t wait to get back to the office.

So, while the conversation isn’t new, it’s certainly ratcheted up during COVID-19. With people forced to work from home, often with family present, it has been a challenging time. As we begin the long march to normality, the question is being asked: Do we really need to be at the office?

Here’s my take on both sides.

The good: No commute and a bit of peace and quiet

First off, there’s a ton of people who profess that working remotely is much better, more efficient, and provides better “work life balance”.

The first thing I hear from people is the efficiency piece, and for many roles, that could well be the case. Sometimes, avoiding the distraction of the office means you can focus specifically on what you need to do. Video calls are all the rage and while that’s a whole other debate, in many cases they are an acceptable alternative to a face-to-face meeting.

Avoiding the commute is another key benefit, meaning that you save time and money. Also, it provides you more time to do the things you want, like go to the gym, pick up the kids, cook more dinners, etc. For some, the mental health impact of that is a real win.

It has meant that many companies are doing a rethink on the office space they lease. It’s tempting to reduce your overall footprint; it’s a real cost saver, particularly if you’re in a CBD location.

The bad: Does it kill morale and are the productivity gains real?

 The opposite side is that it’s causing our teams to disconnect from one another. Like many things in life, work sees you interact with a variety of people, not all of whom might be your choice of human being to hang around with, but it forces us to work together for the common good. I know some feel very isolated, and even more so during the COVID period. Work isn’t just ‘work’, its part of our daily social interaction with people.

The productivity question is a hard one. Some claim they do more but is that demonstrable? Is the lure of our home life, with all the creature comforts, too hard to resist? There’s certainly an argument that some will test the boundaries of this relationship, seeing a decline in productivity. It’s a real 50/50 question.

The verdict

 So, who’s right? The answer for many I suspect is a pineapple! With the risk of upsetting one camp or the other, here’s my take.

I think there’s a balance. Working from home has so many benefits that it can’t be ignored, but the flip side is there is still something to be said for human interaction, for building those relationships with people that are hard to really construct over a video screen.

Productivity is a tough one…I fall into the camp of those who don’t prefer to work at home: For me there are too many distractions, and I like the routine of going to work. But I’m just one of 26 million Australians, everyone has a different view and, ultimately, can decide for themselves on which works best for them. As we manage a large number of projects, I don’t stipulate one rule for our teams: If you can work remotely and deliver what we need you to, then no issues from our side. Need an office and a desk? We can do that too! The recent pandemic showed that our Internet infrastructure could handle it.

There’s no set rule: It comes down to the individual business and the people within it. Good leaders will be able to manage their teams and their ability to deliver, regardless, so businesses with strong leadership will be fine either way. It will expose those leaders who cannot effectively lead, and it may be a good thing for some businesses to uncover these weaknesses so that they can be fixed.

Ultimately, a good leader should trust their staff to be accountable. If you can’t, then maybe you need to take a look at your recruitment process to ensure you have the right people!

What are your thoughts? Keen to hear what you think. DM me here or email me at steve@projectprofessionalservices.com.au.

5G: It’s not a pandemic but it is a game changer

 Sometimes in life you’ve just got to have a laugh. I felt like that recently when I saw the scenes played around Australia surrounding the impact of 5G.

While everyone has the right to protest, the protests railing against the introduction of 5G have pushed the realms of believability. Connecting it to everything from cancer to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, protestors sought to rally Australians and our various levels of government to roundly reject 5G. Some protestors even suggested there was a link between Bill Gates and some sort of ‘evil empire’ designed to control our minds…

Yes…I know it’s completely insane, and most reasonably-minded people ignore it. But it is funny to examine how people react to new technology.

From steam engines, PCs and on to 5G

5G is just another technology that has been demonised for little to no reason. While it may seem ridiculous, it’s clear that it’s not the only tech to suffer the issue of people fearing its introduction.

Over history, there have been numerous examples. Back in the 1800’s, people feared the introduction of the steam engine, with paranoia gripping many workers who thought that the all-powerful new invention would replace them and their jobs. Of course, while it revolutionised everything from transport to manufacturing, improving the way we lived and worked, we all adapted. Ditto for the PC, which in the 80’s, had people fearing they’d never work again. We’re seeing a similar, if somewhat muted reaction now, to artificial intelligence and robotics.

5G is slightly different in that it’s a fear that it impacts our health. Even though this has been repeatedly disproven (we had similar reactions to 4G too), for some people all you need is an ‘Instagram’ expert and panic ensues.

5G is a game changer

 The reality of 5G is that it will make a massive difference. It’s a huge leap forward from 4G and will revolutionise the way we work and live our lives.

Speed is one of the main factors. We know how Australians often lament the perceived lack of Internet speed; 5G will dramatically improve this. There have even been some experts speculating that it could make the NBN somewhat redundant.

Could that happen? Certainly there’s a chance that wireless will replace fibre optic style comms networks in the future. We’re potentially at a tipping point with 5G, in that the speed increase and our ability to utilise it, particularly in business, are so great. Some providers are discussing 5G plans as an opportunity to go ‘5G only’. It will be interesting to watch this space develop over the next 12-18 months here in Australia.

Ignore the ‘Karens’

Ultimately, it’s worth ignoring some of the more ‘out there’ ideas around 5G. I always like the analogy around the ‘Karens’ of the world: busybodies, male and female, who peddle out their theories with ‘facts’ that don’t quite stack up on closer inspection. When it comes to tech, it pays to focus on the experts and not the fringe dwellers.

What are your thoughts? Keen to here what you think, email me at steve@projectprofessionalservices.com.au

 

 

NBNco: How did it stack up during COVID-19?

It’s the most talked about topic in the Telco industry and one that doesn’t take a lot of encouragement for someone to use: Australia’s NBN. The program ever since its announcement, through a rollout often plagued with issues, and onto seemingly endless media stories on how bad its performance stacks up against the world, has always been a news story with more downside than up.

That pressure has only increased during our recent COVID challenges. As more and more Australians worked from home, shifting the load from CBD areas out into the suburbs, the constant fear was that our Internet capability wouldn’t meet the increased demand.

But here’s the most interesting thing…for all the huffing and puffing that the NBN wouldn’t handle the stress, overall it’s performed incredibly well in trying circumstances.

 

It’s not all doom and gloom

Let’s address the point right away: Despite being the butt of plenty of jokes, both inside and outside the industry, the NBN isn’t terrible. Sure, when the project was first envisaged the network could have looked substantially different, particularly around fibre to the home, which has been argued to death across media, politics and within our industry itself.

The major point to consider in all of this is cost. In the end Australia is a relatively small country population wise…but with a huge geographical spread. We all understand the cost vs. performance argument and in the end, while still being hugely expensive, the NBN is performing far better than its technological predecessor. The constant comparisons to other countries aren’t always helpful and are often taken out of context; for example, we have a significantly smaller population than either the USA or the UK but we’re constantly compared when it comes to Internet performance. While some of it is valid, a lot of it doesn’t take into account the demand in those countries versus our own.

There’s an old saying that applies here: You can’t make everyone happy. Trade offs are inevitable.

 

Demand shifts to the suburbs

One of the more talked about issues to come out the recent pandemic has been the shift in load in terms of usage, moving from concentrated CBD areas where the vast majority of work took place, into a more distributed model across metro suburbs. Chuck in the fact that schools went to remote learning at the same time, plus people we’re isolating at home driving up leisure Internet activity as well…and it was a major shift in usage.

Despite a few click bait stories and early predications of a complete network failure, the fact is that the NBN served us well. It’s worth ignoring some of the overhyped media commentary (a fact worth noting in a lot of areas!) that focused on any small issue that arose. I know in my personal situation that my home Internet performed extremely well while working remotely. In fact it probably paled in comparison to having to stay cooped up at home with no chance to go out…something I’m sure that tested many relationships across the country!

 

Where to from here?

Now comes the most interesting part: What happens next? It looks like working remotely is going to increase dramatically and we won’t see the same numbers of people returning full time to office towers. With that comes a different demand model than we’ve seen before.

Will there be further infrastructure changes? If we see consistently high demand in the suburbs we might need to see further network changes. What happens when the CVC pricing is wound back to its original position (if it in fact is)? What impact does 5G have (more on this later)? What government policy shifts will take place? The debate I’m sure will continue but perhaps now, after the past few months, it will be a little more reasoned and maybe we can remove the “NBN sucks” mentality that we’ve seen prevail over the past ten years.

What are your thoughts? Keen to here what you think, DM me here or email me at steve@projectprofessionalservices.com.au