With our planet in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, Earth Day 2020 definitely has a different vibe this year. In some ways, the virus serves as a reminder of how closely connected we are to one another and how little control we actually have over nature. Our activities can severely impact it, and our technology can sometimes predict it, but all it takes is a tiny strand of RNA to remind us that we are inhabitants of Earth and not its masters.
If there can be any upside to this worldwide tragedy, it may be that many more businesses are coming to understand the benefits of allowing team members to work from home. At Raxis, we’ve enjoyed those advantages since we launched the company in 2011. For us, it makes sense on many levels.
Atlanta is a large city and, no matter where we put an office, some of us would face commute times of an hour or more. As penetration testers, we have little need to share infrastructure or applications – we have our own tools and leverage VPNs. We have also become experts at online chat and audio/video conferencing, and we hold frequent team-building events to nurture camaraderie and friendship.
For Raxis, the remote-work model continues to pay dividends in terms of productivity and quality of life – but that’s just at the company level. What’s really exciting is to think about the prospect that thousands of other businesses might now join our ranks. That’s because, in the few short weeks that COVID-19 has forced us to stay home, we’ve seen air quality improve around the world and greenhouse gas emissions dropping dramatically. Fewer cars on the roads also means fewer accidents and lower insurance costs. And for many, less time in their vehicles has meant more time with family, hobbies, and exercise.
We won’t miss social distancing but imagine the improvements we could see over the long term if remote work becomes the norm.
As a cybersecurity company, we can’t ignore the potential threats from hackers and scammers. In fact, my Raxis colleagues and I spend a lot of time warning businesses and their employees about the risks of working from home. With diligence and appropriate safeguards in place, however, a home office isn’t necessarily less secure than a traditional office.
Of course there are also many who cannot work from home – police, first responders, emergency room personnel, to name just a few. Even so, their working conditions could well improve if more of the rest of us do stay home. In addition to making the highways safer, for example, less congestion means emergency personnel can get to the people who need them faster. Stores, restaurants, gyms, and salons could see customer traffic spread more evenly throughout the day. All of this would likely mean less of a burden on our federal, state, and local employees as well.
Still, it would be naïve to think that the COVID-19 emergency on its own will cause an immediate and fundamental change in the way the world does business. It’s likely that these blue skies will fade a bit when people go back to work and the pace of life picks back up. But it’s also possible that this terrible pandemic has come with a silver lining – a brief glimpse at the benefits of living and working more sustainably.
Our hope for this Earth Day is that the time we’ve spent away from the office has given us time to consider whether so many of us need one at all.