The fact is this: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work and live. It has changed everything. All 50 states have now reported cases of the virus, with 42 states issuing some variation of a “stay at home” order for their citizens. It is now estimated that nearly half of those still employed are working from home.
As the world adapts to this new paradigm, the trucking industry asks itself: Can we work from home? Absolutely. And technology helps. Ramping up your technological capabilities and adapting to the new times will help you see productivity gains and so much more.
As the world approaches 2 million COVID-19 cases, everyone is asking whether they will adapt to the new way of thinking and working or hold on to the old ways. The trucking industry is not immune from these questions. Already many are already beginning to speculate aloud how they will make the adjustment.
While many might find it hard to be optimistic during these times, there is still a lot to be hopeful for. Humans do a very good job figuring out how to make the best of nearly any situation. We are adaptable. Are there any silver linings that can come from this situation?
Remote Work Takes Off
There are two sides to every coin. And just as this situation has been bad on so many levels, there are good things that have come out of it. Certainly, pollution has decreased around the world. As driving and manufacturing hit the pause button, nature has taken a deep breath. In a lot of places, people report connecting virtually with friends and family they did not often speak to before. As the virus has ripped families apart, it has also brought others closer together.
Another area that could be considered a silver lining is in the area of remote work. There are many benefits to working remotely and companies are beginning to realize them in this new environment. Some of the key benefits to working remotely include:
- Employee empowerment
- Higher levels of productivity
- Location-independent recruiting opportunities
- Less office overhead
- A forward-thinking reputation
The problem lies in habit. Old habits die hard, but perhaps the COVID-19 situation has taken a hammer these old habits. It still may be hard for leadership teams to fully appreciate the benefits enough to continue the programs post-virus. Let’s take a closer look at specifically how remote work can benefit both companies and workers.
The Benefits of Remote Work
While being in a central office can be good for coordination and collaboration in a physical sense, they can also be focal points for stress and anxiety. Working from home allows employees to create their own workspace and remain focused with fewer distractions. There is also plenty of evidence to show that when employees can set their own hours, they are more productive. Take away the need to drive to work and even more time is saved.
Other studies show that when employees can work in their own environment, they take more pleasure in their work. Working from home allows a sense of pride and ownership over one’s output. This is a natural offshoot of the self-determination working from home allows. The direct result? Increased creativity and higher levels of employee loyalty.
While there are sometimes concern of losing a bond of “shared culture” that you get from an office environment, many companies still find it difficult to create in an office. After all, it is kind of a vague concept. When they are working remotely, workers have less of an opportunity to engage in gossip or other types of counterproductive behavior.
Finally, consider your talent scouting potential when you can hire anyone from across the country. You now have a much larger pool of talent to choose from. There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that working remotely gives firms greater flexibility in finding the right people for the job. The question at hand, however, is how trucking companies can make this transition without severe disruption to their operations.
Trucking Adapts to Remote Life
While not every trucking company can make this kind of adjustment, it will take some creativity. Until we reach Class 5 autonomy, truck drivers will still be driving trucks. Granted, automated freight delivery is expected to largely turn trucking into a desk job, we are still many years away from that new paradigm. Let us deal with one new paradigm at a time!
No, truck drivers still need to be in the cabs out on the nation’s roads and highways hauling the lifeblood of America. But this will result in some obvious changes at the home office. There are plenty of workers – from the executive team to the accounting department – that can easily get their tasks done from home with a strong internet connection.
Working from home also exposes an employee’s devices to the outside world. When they are using company-based systems, this could expose sensitive information to outside threats. That’s why you need to turn to a VPN. This will require some investment. Large networks are needed to handle the requirements of large organizations.
Companies will need to turn to corporate virtual private networks (VPN). But will these VPNs be able to handle the strain? It depends on the size of the trucking company. VPNs encrypt data and provide secure connections for employees working from home. Still, VPN’s are not a silver bullet for all problems. Everything from eavesdropping to exploits and lateral malware attacks, there comes some risk with allowing employees to work from home.
Teleconferencing represents another way trucking companies can move something into the virtual space and save money on overhead. Many have turned to Zoom, one of the stock market unicorn darlings from 2019. It has even outperformed the stock market during this crisis as demands for its services skyrocket. Whether you use a third-party resource or build something in-house, teleconferencing provides another way to tighten up your operation.
Smaller companies will be dealing with the same problems. The biggest problem companies will face are technological issues that can crash the system. Fortunately, the cloud can be utilized to offload much of the server strain. Whether you go with Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, or another solution – as we have said so many times before at the QuickTSI blog, technology is the answer.
Saving Time and Money
If there is one thing that any trucking company big or small wants to do, it is reduce costs. Some trucking companies have big, elaborate headquarters. Others exist in a small office. However you want to look at it, you are spending money on heating, cooling, lighting, in some cases food or amenities.
Yet, when a downturn happens, it allows companies to look inward at how they can improve their operations, streamline processes, and – perhaps most of all – save money. If you can cut back on rent or office costs without disrupting operations, that seems like a no-brainer. This is especially true if you are facing financial problems.
Would saving money on your headquarters, office rent, expansion, and depreciation work wonders for your bottom line?
What else could you do with this saved money? Perhaps you could give your customers more favorable pricing or pay your employees more? You could also add more benefits or simply add a greater level of financial security to your operations.
Stepping into the Future
We are always big advocators of using technology to advance your organization. COVID-19, while being a horrible crisis, has reminded us all that we can, and must, do more to be prepared moving forward. Working remotely should not be viewed as something that is merely tolerated but used to your advantage.
Consider the following technologies as you implement your own work-from-home strategy for your office employees:
- A cloud-based technology platform.
- Single sign-in web platforms for multi-tasking.
- Self-contained messaging systems.
- Assignable alerts and message boards for communication and personalized notifications.
- The ability to integrate apps and other peripheral technologies.
- A workforce management platform that allows easy communication between you, suppliers, customers, and employees.
- A traceable, secure system.
As companies try to figure out how to make the most of this situation, working from home will increasingly become a go-to option. Certainly owner-operators and some trucking companies simply do not have the capacity or need to go remotely, but for a large number of the over 1 million trucking companies in the United States, change can happen.