About six months ago, I volunteered to write a blog entitled “Is the Typical 9-to-5 Gone.” I figured I could write about how when I first started in this business in 1979, we had our listings on 4x6 index cards, lined up in size order in a drawer. How, other than in-person, there was only a phone and a typewriter for communications. How our secretaries took dictation in shorthand and then typed our letters with an onion skin copy. Many of us had no idea how to type or never even thought about learning. Corrections to letters had to be done manually and then retyped. State of the art typewriters had an auto correct feature, which expedited the process somewhat. I was going to talk about when fax machines first appeared and the whole world changed—no longer were we having sit-down lease signings, and communications capabilities advanced measurably. My first cell phone was mounted in my car and cost $3,000 (it was pretty cool, if I do say so) and boy that took a lot of stress off. I remember always running late for meetings due to traffic on the Long Island “Distressway,” and having to make the decision whether to get off at an exit and search for a phone—which would make me even later—or to just keep going, hoping my customer would be there and the buildings would still be accessible. Work was always done at work. Not necessarily 9-to-5—more like 7-to-7—but not from the car, rarely at home, and certainly not mobile.
Then I could talk about how desktop computers started appearing—fascinating, intriguing, compelling, and fun. I was an early adopter. Remember “ASCII”? I spent numerous evening hours learning. I took a typing course. Databases! We were still chained to the office, though, working 9-to-5 (or 7 to 7 if you will.)
But things changed significantly. I think the real release started with the advent of the laptop. Now people could be truly mobile…almost. It took the internet to really release people from the office environment. E-mail and search engines are what got us out of the office and once that happened, we could work from anywhere at any time. When the smartphone arrived, we had the knowledge of the entire universe in our hands, offering a paradigm shift. Mobility is what shook us from the traditional 9-to-5.
After all of that, I think it was the millennial generation that really got us going remote. Growing up with a computer or smartphone from day one changed human behavior forever. Communication by text and e-mail replaced person-to-person interaction, and with that, we no longer were bound by time or place. Working remotely became a growing trend and people would work anytime, anywhere. We worked from home, from the car, on vacation, on the boat, in the woods, on top of the mountain. It was great and it was not great. The attitude of no longer being bound by “business hours” became a blessing and a curse.
Then came the totally unexpected: the novel Coronavirus. Kind of like a “force Majeure,” people and business have been forced into a new way of operating. Thankfully we have the ability and opportunity to shift into remote operations. It’s almost as if we have been training for this battle without knowing we were about to go to war. Almost like Darwinian theory, people have adapted to a whole new way of life and communications and doing business.
While I’m no prognosticator—especially in these times when no one really knows how things are going to look moving forward—I feel very comfortable saying that the “Traditional 9-to 5” is gone forever. While the hours may still be the norm, the location that those on-the-job hours are fulfilled will look different as we move into a post-COVID world. I believe the ability to remotely communicate via online formats like Zoom has created a whole new world of functional communications, as it allows one to see critically important messaging cues such as body language and inflection, but the ability to experience and interpret another person’s “energy field” is still missing when we work completely digitally. As odd as that term may sound, it’s a sublime and subconscious interaction that’s essential to creating a full conversation as it often reveals the “feeling” behind one’s words. I highly doubt this essential element will ever be able to be accomplished remotely.
Who really knows where it is going at this point? There has been much speculation but only as things unfold will we see. What I do know is that people, and business will ACCEPT, ADJUST and ADAPT.