Distance Still Matters in Business, Despite the Internet
The internet has been massively helpful to businesses during the pandemic. It offered many businesses an alternative means to continue operating. The other option would have been to furlough or lay off most of their workforce. Providers all over the country have lent support to businesses and homes with special offers like Charter Spectrum.. This has helped make distance a much smaller problem than it used to be. Firms now have access to much more diverse and broader talent pools. And they can hire people from other parts of the country, or even the world.
The internet helps firms address many new pandemic-generated problems. However, many firms still have cause for concern. Particularly concerning the geographical distance between the workplace and many employees or teams. While the digital bridge can close this distance in many ways, there may still be several bottlenecks that need solving.
Table of Contents
The Pandemic and Forced Transformation
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world forever. It is by far one of the most significant events in the 21st Century. And with the disruption it caused on a global scale, it has impacted almost every way of life. That includes putting businesses through some of the toughest choices they have ever made.
In March 2020, the outbreak officially became a pandemic-level health crisis. And with no tangible vaccine or end to the spread, businesses had to plan for unexpected changes as quickly as possible. Since then, there have been rapid wholesale changes across firms and industries. The more agile and tech-savvy businesses in most industries saw the wisdom of transitioning to a remote working format. This has helped many businesses stay afloat. It has also helped generate some much-needed cost savings. But the geographical distance, while lessened over digital platforms, still needs conquering.
Conventional “On-Premises” Models
The conventional business model has typically revolved around workers and teams showing up to the workplace every day. Whether you had a part-time job, a permanent one, or even a temp role, you were expected to be on-premises. Barring special privileges, most businesses and business leaders never considered remote work as a serious workforce model.
As a result, despite the widespread use of remote working platforms, many businesses struggle to maintain efficiency. Most business processes are still built around conventional models. So even with remote working in effect, most of them still struggle to function in a streamlined manner.
How The Internet Helped Business Adapt
Of course, let’s not downplay the role the internet has played in saving the global economy from a near-total reset. But it was only a mix of ingredients and a pandemic that created the perfect storm. Internet penetration and usage have grown substantially over the past decade. More and more markets have access to reliable high-speed internet. And many providers have managed to upgrade infrastructures to ensure a reliable and disruption-free internet service.
The digital platforms and services many of us use for remote working have existed for several years now. It was businesses that were reluctant to embrace it as a complete alternative to conventional workforce models. Notwithstanding, the pandemic finally forced their hand, and many had to either move to remote work or suspend operations altogether. As an alternative working tool, the internet has helped many businesses in ways that include:
- Opening up access to international talent pools.
- Creating leaner workforces that perform better.
- Helping businesses save substantial costs.
- Improving workforce morale with a better work-life balance.
The Geographical Problems That the Internet Cannot Solve
However, despite the internet’s many solutions and platforms, many businesses still find room for improvement. The internet has been lauded as a face of globalization since the 1980s. Instant communication across vast distances has always proven a great advantage to businesses. However, while the internet has “killed” distances in many ways, in other ways, it has added to the distance problems. Here are a few business problems that geographical distances still interfere with:
- Establishing reliable new business partnerships online.
- Creating new collaborative relationships between workers.
- Helping new hires integrate with existing teams or colleagues.
- Establishing streamlined and efficient collaboration models.
Of course, this is not to say the remote working model is without merit. It has proved to be extremely valuable to businesses over the past 2 years. However, on its own, it cannot completely replace offline communication or interaction. But it is by no means a less useful workforce management approach. If anything, a complementary mix of offline and online interaction may prove to be a stronger format than either of the two on their own.
Impossible to Completely Replace Human-To-Human Interactions
Let’s take a quick detour down Natural History Lane. The earliest humans lived through some extremely tough conditions. They had very high mortality rates. That’s not to mention very primitive technology to defend themselves against large predators and dangerous prey. Think along the lines of a saber-toothed tiger or a wooly mammoth. Perhaps as a result of these conditions, humans figured out that strength lay in numbers. And so, they started to band together, forming tribes, raiding parties, and even armies. This proved a wise evolutionary move. Humans lived through drastic climate changes and dangerous environments.
And then, our ancestors gradually replaced their nomadic lifestyles by creating permanent settlements. Thanks to this, their dependence on numbers grew even more. Not only that, they needed people doing specific things that supported their settlements. Hunters, gatherers, farmers, traders, blacksmiths, miners, soldiers, and even rulers. Soon, early civilizations began to emerge, based just as much on their population as on organized structures.
The purpose of this detour? It demonstrates just how much human interaction is hardwired into our evolutionary traits. These interactions are an ingrained social need. You can be deprived of human-to-human interaction, but not without negative outcomes like miscommunication, loneliness, social deprivation, and even depression. It is not any different in a professional context. Modern digital systems and virtual workplaces can supplement human workers. But they can never completely replace the need and efficacy of real human interaction.