The Future of Telework
One of the nation’s largest rocket manufacturers is putting policies in place for employees to routinely work from home, even once the pandemic ends. United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno tells us the company, which has had only one confirmed case of the coronavirus, implemented a number of mitigation measures when the virus began spreading in early March, including more telework, disinfecting of facilities every hour and restricting meetings and visitors. Bruno predicts some of those changes will remain in the post-pandemic world.
“We have shattered a lot of preconceived notions about what work looks like,” said Bruno. “There will eventually be a return to normal … but normal will not be the normal it was before the pandemic. I intend to have a sustained level of normal telework every week, plus meeting alternatives and travel alternatives.”
Indeed, the space industry will have to adapt to facilitate more telework, predicted ASCEND Executive Producer Rob Meyerson, the founder and CEO of consulting company Delalune Space, who spent 15 years as the president of Blue Origin. “The tech industry has been embracing remote work tools like Zoom and Slack for years. Now we’ll see the space industry start to embrace those tools,” Meyerson told us. “We’ll see the tool developers start to adjust to make those tools more compliant with the specific requirements of space, like [the International Traffic in Arms Regulations] and tighter cybersecurity restrictions.”
A healthier workforce: Social distancing is preventing all viruses from spreading, said Bruno. “Ironically, in the middle of a global pandemic, we’re about 20 times healthier than we would be this time of year for cold and flu. Almost no one got sick,” he said, adding that not coming into the office when sick would become mandatory going forward. “There’s a little bit of a macho thing of [saying], ‘Well yes, I’m sick, but I’m powering through it for my team.’ … We’ve learned people can be very, very effective teleworking. … Our policies will change to require that, not just encourage that, but tell them you must go home if you’re sick.”
What about the summer interns? Meyerson predicted it will be more difficult for interns to build connections and to evaluate their work without face-to-face interaction. “The days of randomly walking by someone’s desk or randomly sitting down to eat lunch with them aren’t going to happen, so how do you make sure those interactions happen?” he said. “It’s going to take very proactive people to do that.”
Originally reported in Politico Space.