Before COVID, I worked on business development, trying to find Fractional Integrator (outsourced COO) clients regardless of whether they lived in my local area (New York City area) or anywhere else in the world.
The problem I faced was that people couldn’t imagine someone working at the leadership level with someone they couldn’t sit with eyeball-to-eyeball. Many just could not get their heads around that even if they understood and believed that Fractional Leadership would have propelled their businesses far further than they could have taken them on their own.
Everything changed in March 2020. People were literally forced to work with all of their employees, including their leadership teams, remotely. Most discovered that the sky did not fall down and productivity did not plummet when people worked from home.
After months – or longer – of remote work, I saw a dramatic shift in attitude. When people began to get their bearings, they realized that they were not limited by geography when putting together their best team.
Starting around May and June 2020, I and many other Fractional Leaders I know began getting far more inquiries and filled up our client rosters much more quickly than before.
Personally, I refer to this phenomena, combined with the increasing effectiveness of remote work and collaboration tools like Zoom, Slack, Asana, and the like around that time, as crossing the “remote work event horizon.”
The term event horizon refers to the demarcation line around a black hole beyond which an object can pass by without being sucked in. But if something crosses within a black hole’s event horizon, even light, there’s no turning back.
As Zoom’s chief product officer Odel Gal said about the lockdown, “All the people that were resistant to using the technology were forced to use it.” Now my former colleagues are in no rush to bring their teams back to the office.
Even my own former company, which resisted my efforts to perform remote work experiments, decided not to return to in-person work even after it became permitted safety-wise.
Because remote work is now so prevalent, even at the executive level, bringing in experienced Fractional Leadership to solve the Entrepreneurial Catch-22 is much easier for business owners to wrap their heads around. Forbes now claims that its own prediction that over 50% of the workforce would be remote by 2027 was too conservative.
When leaders were forced to acclimate to people working remotely, they even realized that without time around the water cooler, so to speak, their people were about 13% more productive than they were in the office.
I think we have crossed the remote work event horizon. Once everyone was forced to try out remote work at least for several months, it let the genie out of the bottle. There will always be some people who are hard-wired to hate not working in person. And that’s fine. Very often people can find a Fractional Leader in their own city. If, before the pandemic, 15% of business owners would have considered a C-level, Fractional Leader, I estimate that perhaps 30-50% are now open to it.