EP40: Every Mitigation is Untested - WFH or Going Back to the Office
This episode of Market Dominance Guys starts with Chris recapping the numbers from the previous episode on the tremendous infusion of savings Work From Home creates as knowledge workers are no longer required to go into an office to be productive. Quite the opposite. The data supports they are as much as 47% more productive working from home - ending the commute economy.
After the recap, Corey and Chris talk about the other aspects and concerns of potentially returning to the office, why it's a bad and wasteful idea and how we can all benefit by allowing knowledge workers to continue to work from home.
Join us for this episode of Market Dominance Guys - All Mitigation is Untested - Work from home or return to the office?
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The complete transcript of this episode is below:
Chris Beall (01:24):
So 48 million knowledge workers commuting for a little less than an hour a day each, that's 210 hours a year. It is a lot of labor hours. It's about 10 billion labor hours, and a 50 bucks an hour that's about $500 billion of waste time. And then you add on top of that at the standard government reimbursement rate of 57.5 cents a mile, how much they drive and that driving per year is about 7,000 miles. Again, multiply that by those 48 million people, and you get an additional $194 billion approximately. So it's really quite a bit that's being wasted entirely on commuting. And you add those numbers together and then throwing something like childcare. Say 40% have childcare costs and at $8 an hour for that commute time, that adds another 32 billion plus dollars. And you get about $731 billion of waste right there, just on the knowledge workers commuting. That's their labor hours. That's the cost of the commute itself and I threw in one childcare thing for 40% of them.
And then look at the rest of the workforce. There's 62 million people, approximately commuting in the rest of the workforce. They're going to be kind of $35-an-hour labor. And that's it an awful lot of commute hours per day. That's 53 million, almost 54 million commute hours. And so say they got a 25% improvement from all those knowledge workers being off the freeways and off the streets and out of the parking. Now you're down to a pretty big number again, $114 billion of additional savings in total. It comes up to about $846 billion. That's already being saved directly by commuters in the form of labor and in the form of expenses.
Corey Frank (03:38):
For a company who is struggling thinking about moving their team to a work-from-home model. Oftentimes the gate is open, the spreadsheet I think that you walked us through here is just walk around the gate, "Come on in the water's fine." The downside that a lot of the hesitancy that a lot of companies would push back on Chris is the culture and the continuity and the three-pound brain. There is some benefit from being next to another three-pound brain. And that's my feeling of involvement by feeling of social status and things of that nature. And I think we had a lot of those could probably get addressed if they listened to last week's episode with Sushi Paremo and the wonderful culture that he's building with his organizations. But what do you say to that just briefly when you know, "Okay, I can go around the gate. I see the hard costs. It makes sense from a P&L from an EBITDA perspective but man, there is real atomic weight from that three-pound brain being next to another three-pound brain."
Chris Beall (04:50):
Well, we're going to have to try it for a while because going back to the office is expensive and dangerous. In fact, dangerous in a funny way. And the plaintiff's bar is itching to go after an employer who forces people to come to the office and watch these people get sick. I mean, they're armed and ready to go. And anybody who's familiar with how the plaintiff's bar works and how class action works knows what is about to happen. So folks voluntarily coming back in, still there's some legal risks just is, because who knows what assurances you may have inadvertently provided. What warning labels you might've had to have, what mitigations you could have done that you failed to do and not knowing about them by the way, might not be a defense. So you're about to learn something auto manufacturers have known for a long time, which is that you're responsible for safety if you offer something where there are safety issues that are different from what was expected. And since no one knows what to expect, this could be problematic for anybody who's bringing folks back.
Secondly, every mitigation is untested. There are no tested mitigations. I saw a beautiful article in the Puget Sound Business Journal that showed a picture, an infographic, and it showed the 11 mitigations that you should consider before you bring people back to the office. And they were things like coming in with the new HPAC system that had different kinds of filtering and it circulated air differently. Really? For a year and a half or two years of benefit. I mean, if you're going to bring them back, okay, but really new HPAC so that the three-pound brains can sit next to each other, but not infect each other. Do you think anybody's ever tested that? I don't think anybody's ever tested that, right?
Not one of these mitigations has been tested. Coffee machines that you operate with your smartphone. I don't think anybody's ever done laboratory testing or in real-life testing of the impact of that on respiratory virus transmission, right? So this is just stuff people are going on and they're kind of waving their hands and saying bup, bup, bup, bup. I remember there was a finger on the scale, which is the other side of those big leases. So you should expect to see a lot of stories about how essential it is and possible it is to bring people back into the office. But I tell you from a scientific perspective, again, all 11 of those mitigations have got to be done and all 11 have got to work and then you have to not get a little bad luck. Well, it turns out they stood next to somebody in the Starbucks downstairs. And so it's unlikely, you're going to have to learn to live with it anyway. Culturally, what do you do? I know in sales, what you do, it's simple. For your sales team, nothing is more energizing than talking to people.
Corey Frank (07:52):
Chris Beall (07:53):
This is our team today. And here's an SDR that's talked to 25 decision makers. So at one meeting, so they had a moment of excitement at 14 followups, it's Friday. People tend to be a little busy on Friday. I got two referrals and had five minutes and 24 seconds after pushing the button on average, before he talked to somebody. Josh Philemon did. And I'm sure during that time he was doing something else that's useful. So it's kind of funny. We talk about culture. Culture is about ping pong tables or it's about, I don't know, drinking beer in the conference room or whatever it happens to be, which I think people gave up a while ago too, for safety reasons.
So the fact of matter is people, as Damon told us, they worked for pride and workmanship and if they have good work to do, and they're having fun doing it, and they're being managed in a way that's fair and reasonable and encouraging, then the core of culture is there. And that's the number one thing, is work culture actually can be about work and it can be about what somebody loves to do. If you're in sales, you hopefully love to talk with people. And so if you're with my team today, they've talked to 168 people as you see down here.
Corey Frank (09:13):
Chris Beall (09:13):
That's a lot of conversations, right? Here's is what also is culturally kind of good about this. They didn't have to make those 5,655 frustrating dials and navigate those phone systems, that was done for them. So that's kind of pleasant. And then another thing is people like to be able to help. And they like to be helped. If you need help, you're stuck. You need to learn if somebody notices you need help and there's a lot of ways to do that. So say your boss or your coach could come in and say, "You know what? This guy, Sean McLaren, he's our chairman. Man, he's got a lot of busy callbacks today."
By the way Sean McLaren really is our executive chairman who really does talk to people. "So today he had six conversations inside one meeting. That's pretty good, but he's having a hard time keeping people on the phone. I wonder if Sean's got issues today? Is it a little slow or is his voice bad? This one can't be corrected? It's a minute-long conversation. So maybe he just coded it wrong. These are short. I have a feeling if I listened to one and we're not going to do that right now, respect for Sean's awesomeness. But hey, if Sean needed a little help, just thinking about his state of mind today, his mood or whatever, then you we can help him."
And then here's another thing is it's fun to do work that counts. It's not much fun to do work. That doesn't count. So today this team it's $5,655. And now it's gone out by a couple, it's only three in the afternoon after all. Would that have been culturally marvelous for them to just go under voicemail 1,825 times today or navigated to voicemail 1,567 times? Or been told by a gatekeeper, "I'm sorry Corey is not in today." I am not available. None of that looks like fun. So culturally that's part of it.
Now the rest of it is this, human beings actually don't have a sense of smell like the other animals and they have the other mammals. So your dog can smell you across town and I'm speaking literally here. I had a dog once that freaked out, and ran off in a thunderstorm and she went all the way back up to our mountain home, which was 17 miles away of complex navigation involving roads and trails and God knows what. And she went to every neighbor's house and sort of knocked on the door to check, to see if we were there because we were out of town. Imagine that.
Corey Frank (11:53):
Well, she knows that there's a bunch of Milk-Bones on the other side of the fence. That's probably why that she could get to.
Chris Beall (11:59):
Exactly. Well, what was she really doing? She was following a scent trail and that she had mapped a scent map, not a trail. She had mapped the scent. She'd only been up and down that road one time in her life. And the one time up one time down. That was it. This is a dog never been to town before, before we moved to town. So she remembered how to get back to that complex mountain home by knowing the smell of everything along the way. So dogs are really, really good at this. And you go to the airport, they don't have a trained human who's going up and down in the security line, sniffing everybody that have a dog, right?
Corey Frank (12:34):
Chris Beall (12:35):
Humans are not the most brilliant in the world at smell on each other and figuring out if they're sincere or to be trusted but we are geniuses like dogs will never be at hearing each other's voices and seeing each other's faces. And the voice and the face are the two ways that we express ourselves in terms of what really counts, which is do I care about? And if you want to have a great culture, let your people know you care about them and let them tell you, they care about you and about the mission. And then you just do it natural ways, in the normal course of business, like getting on these Zooms, by just talking on the phone, everybody in your company who is physically capable of hearing and seeing, and that's not everybody I get it, that's really tough for folks who have vision problems and hearing problems.
But of the rest, of the mass of folks at your company who don't, they're so good at interpreting sincerity and good intentions and meaningful direction from tone of voice. For the same reasons, cold calling works, it's possible and easy to project fantastic culture to a remote workforce. And in fact, you have more time to do it during the two hours you would have had commuting. Let's break it down, I have a team in North America personally of 28 people. So in two hours, how many, five-minute conversations are there? There's 24, that's pretty cool. Think about that. That's 24 times that I can spend having five-minute conversations. And in those five minutes, each one of those minutes, here each second is carrying 20,000 bits of emotional information. Terabytes of emotionally-important information can be transmitted. Having meetings where everybody gets to participate. This is one of the beauties of Zoom.
In a standard conference call, the standard of conference room participation is dominated by the physically most dominant person. They stand, they take over the room, they interrupt, they talk, they go to the whiteboard, they dominate. In a hybrid where there's a speakerphone in the desk or the table in the conference room, you get a two-tier economy, a two-tier culture, people in the room and the people in the mushroom. People in the mushroom don't have a shot. They don't exist. They will never have the floor in any significant way.
On a regular conference call, just voice only. It's tricky. You need a good moderator, but in a Zoom call, it's so natural. Everybody sees each other's face. And normally the contribution level for person goes way up and people feel more included. So I think making an inclusive culture is actually easier. And some of the biases that we have about people are a little, shall we say, muted in this environment and biases are not the greatest thing in the world. So I actually-
Corey Frank (15:42):
... happened 10 years ago, then you could argue that the urgency to go back to the commuter economy would have been so much more urgent, but because the tech stack is so much more in place and plumbed and accepted that there really isn't many excuses to go back to the way were.
Chris Beall (16:03):
When you work the numbers, it says, "Don't do it." When you work the culture it's says, "Don't do it." If your work productivity it says, "Don't do it." We solved this problem a long time ago. We would never have designed it like we had it. Clogged cities with roads you can't get through on. People frustrated, not seeing their children, not getting enough exercise, not eating well, stopping at the bar on the way home, sucking down the lattes because they're bored. Let's face it. That was not healthy. It wasn't economically healthy and it wasn't otherwise healthy. Then it's tragic what's going on with all the cases of people getting sick people dying. But I do believe that a bunch of people worked hard to create a situation where we can work from anywhere and we can contribute to society no matter who we are.
I believe there'll be a next wave that we haven't even touched yet, which is inclusiveness across society. There are so many smart people who don't contribute, don't get to contribute because they don't live where the rich businesses are. And I've done some experiments around that about back in 1991 and '92, that proved to me for sure that there is no difference in talent among all of our different communities that we have in this country or anywhere in the world. And I think one of the side effects of work-from-home and work-from-anywhere is going to be that more people are going to find great careers as knowledge workers who are currently being left out. And I think that's another wave that's coming and nobody's seeing it coming.
Corey Frank (17:44):
That's great. Okay. Well, we have a topic to discuss for next time. In the meantime, I'm going go search for my share of the $7.5 trillion that you say is buried somewhere in the Ether and the virtual couch cushions of America. So until next time [inaudible 00:18:01].
Chris Beall (18:03):
... talk to you later.
Corey Frank (18:05):
Beautiful. Thanks, Chris.
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