As of yesterday, the “stay home” quarantine period due to COVID-19 will mark the longest (two-months) I have stayed in one place since graduating from college back in 2006. in that time, I have logged more than 100K airline miles per year and not fewer than 100 nights (and more often closer to 200) nights in hotels annually.
Working from home has been a very interesting experience. Prior to quarantine at the beginning of 2020, I took at least 2 flights per week often traveling by plane for several hours to attend a 1-hour meeting and getting back on a plane to be off to the next event. The new reality has been quite a welcome change. Waking up in the same bed, at home, with my wife every day has been amazing. Helping this experience is the fact that we’re “stuck” at our house in Costa Rica. About the only negative is that we bought this house not intending for both of us to work virtually out of the house. It is a small (under 1000 sq ft) space. Packing two desks into the house has been challenging. But all things considered, having access to our gym, the trails around Nosara, and all the amazing food the area has to offer has been amazing. In two months, I have only registered one red day on WHOOP, a fitness and recovery tracking wearable, and my average recovery is 30% higher than when I was regularly traveling.
The long-term implications of this quarantine are both exciting and potentially challenging. First, and most importantly, customers are embracing virtual meetings and the reality has forced customer organizations to provide better tools for virtual collaboration. This is not temporary. It’s going to stick and usher in an entirely new paradigm that will result in few trips, lower business travel costs, and much less time wasted traveling. Instead of traveling cross-country for 5 hours for a one-hour meeting, and back again on a red-eye, I can now just hop on Teams, utilize video, and have 85% of the interaction/experience I could have had in person. In the DoD, this is a monumental shift. There will certainly be times where I will find face-to-face valuable and critical, but I believe I will be able to reduce my travel by more than 50%. One potential downside: as a United Global Services member, I was considered part of the backbone of United’s operations, spending more than $50K annually. If many of my GS compatriots are like me, there will be a lot less profitable fliers which means airlines will likely reduce service. Instead of having a flight almost every hour from DC to LA, the new reality could make travel less flexible. Perhaps it won’t matter but it will be interesting to see how limited travel options become.
All in all, the past two months have marked quite the dramatic shift in business operations, travel, and virtual collaboration and mark the beginning the “new normal.” Exciting and interesting times ahead as the world quickly evolves into a new paradigm.