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Working from home is not a new concept

Like many of us, Twitter employees are working from home during COVID-19.

So it wasn’t surprising to read that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told his employees that they could continue to work from home.

What was surprising, however, was that Dorsey told his employees they could work from home “forever.”

“Forever?” one of my friends tweeted with a mind-blown emoji.

“Well, until you’re dead,” I replied. “That’s not forever.”

“Or maybe you can work for Twitter from the great beyond,” he added.

“Oh, wow. Yeah, forever…” I replied with a smiley-faced angel emoji. That word — forever — seemed stuck in the writing craw of columnists and pundits all over the world in the days following Dorsey’s announcement.

While critics gnaw on the ripple effects this “new” policy could have on work culture, it’s important to note that it’s not actually a new policy.

It’s refreshing to hear a CEO of Dorsey’s stature make this move. It’s also important to remember that some very successful companies have been doing this for years. It just took a pandemic for other Fortune 500s to see the possibilities.

One of the more sensible reactions came from Forbes senior contributor and WeCruitr CEO Jack Kelley, who noted several potential ripple effects:

“Management will realize that their employees are happier now that they don’t have to endure long, tedious and stressful commutes. Employers have noticed that their staff operated relatively efficiently and effectively.”

Kelly argued that more CFOs will now count the cost-savings of reduced square footage in overpriced office buildings. More human resource leaders will champion a new work-life balance. More corporations will hire people from anywhere, while shopping for the best, low-cost talent.

We know this is true because some industry-specific models already exist in fields like health care, travel and tourism, finance and trade, as well as my own, education and training.

For example, for all our missteps over the last few weeks, higher education was actually one of the best-positioned industries to alter the traditional learning environment. You probably heard stories of schools quickly moving on-ground courses to online platforms like Blackboard, Canvas or Google Classroom.

My friends at other schools noted obstacles that could have been avoided had we more time to plan, but even the “I’ll-never-teach-online” stalwarts successfully muddled their way to the end of an odd semester.

For some, it wasn’t pretty, but they got it done. Most came through it with a better understanding of the challenges we’ll face in this new environment, a trial by fire with only minor burns that will hopefully heal in time for our summer terms.

Like Twitter, our approach to working from home is not new, but it’s quickly becoming the new normal.

Thankfully, others have been doing this for a long time. You can find them in every industry — telecommuting leaders who’ve paved the way for a better understanding of what it means to work efficiently and effectively from home. They understand how to be productive when kids, pets and a myriad of other distractions invade our workspace.

There’s comfort in learning from others know this new normal, those who have adapted and can share best practices, all while working from the comfort of their own homes.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www. adamearn.com.

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