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This guest post was written by Gopi Mattel, founder and General Partner of Lifeboat Ventures, Director of the Chennai Founder Institute & a Mentor for the Silicon Valley Founder Institute. He is the Founder & CEO of MaxBlox, an application development platform, as well as Cellarstone, an Enterprise Incentives Management company. Mattel is an Advisor at the Pepperdine Graziado Business School, and a contributor to the TheStreet.com

In the recent past, businesses have struggled with the idea of allowing their staff to work from home. Various options have been considered and tried with limited success. Most companies had work-from-home options only as an exceptional arrangement.

Some industries and some career paths certainly need to be at the office. But the majority of the companies did not allow work-from-home because of a fear of productivity loss, primarily. Management and even line managers have felt uncertain that they could get the best work out of their employees.

This has been a big cost to the employees. Most employees waste a large number of unpaid hours just commuting. They are unpaid for that and there is no tax benefit. They take a certain number of risks getting concentrated in a central location.  Employees’ family life and children struggle, since school timings are different than work timings. Pregnant women and women with young children particularly have had to pay a heavy price due to the model of working at the office. 

In one fell swoop the work-from-office model has been broken in the year 2020. Nature has just proved the justification for work-at-office is just a narrative, and when push comes to shove, practically all companies can accommodate work-from-home options. COVID-19 has forced most companies to stop employees from coming to office, due to the high risk of contagion. Certain industries have been damaged terribly due to this pandemic. But most industries have adjusted to this new model and have actually flourished, as we can see from the stock market levels.

Businesses have started rethinking the work location model.  Microsoft, Dropbox, and many other companies have announced permanent work-from-home policies. This is very likely a long-term change. Real estate in many industries can be almost 10% of the company expenses. Companies can move a lot of that expense into the bottom line by outsourcing the real estate function into the employee’s own home. They will not easily add back that expense.

There have been costs, and it has not been a smooth ride. I live in the Silicon Valley area. In the last 6 weeks, I personally have dealt with 2 power outages lasting 2 days each. There were two more smaller power outages plus one internet outage from my ISP. I had to do webinars during this period, and I found myself frantically running around to find a place with reliable power and internet. It was very challenging.

My company’s staff are spread across three countries. They are all dealing with two disasters at a time: some combination of Covid-19, fires and storms. Obviously, this problem is global.

This includes C-level, Vice President, and Director levels.  The staff and the company are all losing large amounts of productivity. I have been looking for solutions for this problem. This productivity problem has to be solved and will be solved, because it has such a big impact on companies. 

One idea that I could see my company paying for, would be a work-from-home resiliency kit for the work-from-home employee. For an employee to be productive from the business perspective, they would need phone service, internet connection, operating computer, phone, printer and some lights. The kit could consist of a battery, a trickle charger using solar or wind, and a satellite internet and phone device that could provide enough coverage for a minimum 72 hours. It should work from a house or an apartment. 

I could see the company paying $150 per month for such a service for each employee. Note: Please respond to this article and tell us how much your company should pay monthly for such a kit, to maintain your productivity.

Other ideas that could help in this area include:

  • A billing service that could aggregate all home-based expenses associated with work-at-home, and pass it on to companies for reimbursement automatically
  • Multiplex software that can maintain seamless internet connectivity across multiple internet connection channels
  • Virtual Reality based collaborative environment for better connectivity

Lifeboat Ventures is thinking about these and more ideas to fund in its quest to mitigate disaster impact on society.


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See the most recent news from our Grads at FI.co/news, or learn more about their stories at FI.co/journey

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