Our world is currently trying to cope with many social and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. In order to reduce the spread of the outbreak, companies had to stop their activities and schools had to suspend education in many countries. These two events have been perhaps the most important ones that increase the negative effects of the social and economic crises. Under these circumstances, two solutions emerged from the technology domain to mitigate the negative effects of these crises. Distance (Online) Education and Home Office Working.
Thanks to the advancement of digital technology over the past decade, distance education and home office working were already available. However, at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak or even before, most of the institutions such as primary or secondary schools or universities hesitated to launch distance education at least for some of their programs. The reasons behind could be that distance education was considered to be costly; teachers and students were not accustomed to use it effectively.
The situation in the business world was similar. Companies were not in favor of the idea of working in the home office because managers worried a lot about how the performance and efficiency of the employees would be controlled and measured if they were not present physically at the workplace. It was also difficult for the employees who were used to work in the companies where the leadership was authoritarian, hierarchy was high and decision making was centralized, who counted on the constant presence of their manager in case they needed assistance.
The classical cliche of the crisis is well known: it comes with the opportunities. Accordingly, the COVID-19 outbreak plays a catalyst role in accelerating the change in the institutions that were not prone to distance education and home office working in the past. Companies should accomodate and schools should continue education during the period of restrictions to minimize the negative effects. Therefore, these institutions adapted themselves quickly to the new situation. Even organizations where the leadership was old fashioned and the status quo seemed unchangeable, organisations that were not in favor of working from home, have come to the point that thay saw it now as a feasible and very effective way of operation. Consequently, they could save a lot of operational expenses such as office rents, heating and electricity costs etc. It was also a good test for the employees and managers at the workplace and the teachers who would show how they would respond to such an important change in their professional life. It was an opportunity for employees to reveal their innovative potential as well.
According to Baltaş (2020), distance education and home office work have become new capabilities which employees and lecturers should acquire as necessary skills. In order to become more effective at distance education and home office work, Baltaş suggested managers and teachers to pay more attention to the following items;
- Prepare guidelines for distance working or education process
- Prepare working at home as if you are going to office or school
- Create private working/teaching area isolated from the daily life at home
- Close communication and benevolent-paternalistic leadership reducing the hierarchy and decentralized decision making
- Clear communication with employees about expectations and goals, with students lecture syllabus and weekly teaching programs, homework and exam deadlines
- Focus on the results more than the process
- Gaining trust and involvement of employees and students
- Team building
- Emphasize meaning of the work/education
People who are more prone to distance learning and home office work have high self-motivation (making her own plans, distinguishing private and working life), self discipline, self-esteem, self monitoring, emotional stability (working under pressure etc.) , high social skills, empathy (EI) and personal factors like openness to experience (Hogan et. all, Baltaş A. 2020).
Today, distance education and home office work are getting inceasingly important and fully or partly new norms in many industries. Therefore, the institutions and even individuals who acquired above characteristics would probably become more preferred, more successful and gain more sustainable advantages.