ESG's Mark Bowker discusses the challenges of connecting remote employees during times of social distancing with Matt Baker of Dell EMC.
Read the related ESG Blog(s):
Mark: Hey, Matt. Thanks for joining us today. How's everything been?
Matt: It's great, Mark. Thanks for having me. You know, obviously, unusual times, but I've been cooking up a storm, practicing my knife skills, so, it's been good.
Mark: You know, it's a good point. I've seen people adjust well. Yes, they get to, kind of, you know, think about what they may be cooking, or, you know, YouTube with their knife skills maybe, in your case. But I think that that overarching kind of reluctancy that we saw from executives in the past about work from home has really changed. I mean, would you agree?
Matt: I'd agree. I think our industry, obviously, I think is better prepared, and clearly there are industries and companies less fortunate than many of us, in that fundamentally, it's difficult to do business remotely. But we made investments at our company over a decade ago, to enable work from home or work remote.
I think that this has really democratized that concept. The other thing that I've heard from a lot of my colleagues who are pretty much remote all the time is that this has been a great equalizer for them, because they would be in meetings, and there'd be five side conversations drowning the mic out, and they'd be like, you know, "Don't go to the whiteboard. I can't see the whiteboard."
I think it's really starting to get people used to the concept, and understanding that you can be as productive, in some cases, more productive, because you can be in any place at any time, virtually.
Mark: Yeah, and I totally agree. I mean, I see where people would have a behavior in the office with online meetings, and suddenly their behavior has been more attentive to, "Oh, we're in a online collaboration type of setting," you know, "how do we behave and kind of act differently?"
It's all been for the better, for sure. So it's been kind of good to see everybody rally around it. And the other thing that I'd say is, kind of, you mentioned, kind of, preparation, right? For the most part, I think the technology really, really works well.
Matt: I think so, too, and I think we have a lot of different groups to thank for that. I think developers who may have been co-located but, based on the workflow, have used collaboration tools a lot more, and so you've got a lot of great content management tools, collaboration tools to choose from. Clearly, though, the videoconferencing capabilities have improved vastly over the years.
I think I saw a number today, Zoom has gone from 50 million subscribers to 300 million subscribers during this period. I've been on Microsoft Teams, I've been on Skype still, I've used them all, and they all have pros and cons, but we've got the tools. We need the will, and I think, clearly this is going to get a lot of people over the will hump, right?
Mark: I think so, too, and, I mean, I think it'll be interesting, Matt, to watch together, is, how people prepare, as people do start to go back into the office and work from, you know, more of a corporate, or headquarters, or just on-site location, how will they use technology? How will business process change? How will policy change? Are you seeing those type of things kind of pop up in how people prepare for the future as well?
Matt: Yeah, well, first of all, let's acknowledge the fact that we're working at home. We're not working from home. And we're in an unusual circumstance, right? So, I will say it's been great for me, been real productive, my family, relatively happy, but I do know that some of my colleagues face some unique challenges, so I think it's important also to remember that not everyone is experiencing the situation the same way.
And, we have to remember that building relationships, people have been building relationships face to face for millennia, right? So, us getting used to building relationships virtually, it's, there's a learning curve to it. So I do think that it is going to be interesting to see how, you know, what sticks and what doesn't stick.
I think, you know, clearly there's some things that will stick because of the economic incentives for them to stick. I traveled 200,000 air miles last year. I don't want to do that again. I don't think anyone really wants to go back to that. So that's probably something that sticks and has a financial benefit to it. But there's also an overwhelming human desire for what you perceived as normalcy, and so that's the discussions I've been having on my own, you know, on Twitter discussions, is, what's really going to stick, and what's really going to, you know, just sort of, that was a moment in time, and we're on to the next moment.
Mark: You're right. I mean, in some sense, I can't wait to get back on an airplane and come see you and go out to dinner, and kind of, you know, do those fun things that we get to do, but at the same time, you're right. Can you change some of the ways that we've kind of taken on travel and meetings, and kind of adopt them differently. So, let's continue to compare notes and stay on top of what businesses are doing.
Matt: Absolutely. And thanks for having me. It's a good discussion, and I hope to be back, and we can follow up on what the next wave of this adventure, you know, holds.
Mark: Absolutely. Thanks, Matt.