Business

Working Remote In The AV Industry, Part 1

As of late, I have made some career changes, and I’ve found myself perusing the job listings on the AVIXA website. As it turns out, the day I searched, I found 204 job postings for AV. However, when I used advanced search functionality to look only at the state of Georgia, just one listing came up. There was a plethora of listings in the northeast, west, etc., but nothing local to me. At that moment, I remembered that, on LinkedIn, I’ve come across many posts mentioning studies that indicate work-at-home employees are more productive. Hmmm….

Some years back, I wrote a few pieces about working remotely, whether in the employ of others or as a subcontractor. These experiences made me think it’s time to delve a little deeper into this area. Specifically, I want to focus on some perspectives that others have shared with me, as well as my own experiences, as it relates to working remotely while employed by others.

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Before getting micro, however, let’s go macro as it relates to our industry and the work-at-home trend. We in commercial AV tout that, by purchasing current technologies from us, companies can empower their employees to work collaboratively from remote locations. And, indeed, it’s true! Companies’ return on investment (ROI) is dramatic, with savings realized in travel and transportation costs, office-related expenses, etc. And the same technologies are utilized for remote learning, remote healthcare services and more. All those benefits are unlocked by clients spending tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars for our industry’s technology.

If we completely removed the remote-work aspect from all our sales, there wouldn’t be much left, would there? I think that means there’s an elephant in the room. If it’s so great for others, then why is it not great for us?

Suppose a client asked, “How do you use these systems? How are they working out?” In many cases, companies in our industry would be at a loss. Sure, maybe employees have some meetings using these systems, but, in my experience, when it comes to working as a remote team member for an integrator or a consultant, it’s generally a “no.” The experiences that have been shared with me, along with my own experiences, tell me we’re not even close to embracing the technology we sell and using it as we recommend our clients do! Why is that?

I think this issue is quite serious. We are not a large industry. Folks are not waking up and saying, “I want to be an AV engineer.” Because talent resources are limited, it’s not wise for something like geography to be the difference between someone entering our industry and entering another industry instead.

Incidentally, these issues don’t only come up regarding out-of-state job opportunities. What about commuting? Sure, in the future, when we’re driven to work in self-driving cars, we can be working away the whole time. But, for now, commuting two or three hours a day—10 to 15 hours a week of unproductive time—is a serious issue. That’s not even to mention health and safety factors, such as being exhausted and falling asleep behind the wheel. And yet, many industry employers, especially those hiring engineers, will not entertain remote employees.

Some have told me that, when they address this issue with their managers, the response is hostile. The manager might say the company is building a team, and you have to be in the office to be part of it. (That’s rather hypocritical, given what we tell our clients.) Then there’s the old-school issue of lack of trust. Basically, “How do I know if you are working?” Sometimes, it’s as simple as, “If I am here, then you have to be here!”

I would like to expand on this topic and perhaps do some research about it. To get started, I’d like managers from integrators and consultancies to write to me and let me know their position on employees working remotely. Are you doing it? Why or why not? I will also reach out proactively to some.

Most important, however, is you—the average reader. What have you experienced? Have any of you been turned down when requesting to work remotely? How did it turn out? Conversely, if you’re currently working remotely, share your experiences doing so, as well as how the situation arose. Email me at dkleeger@testa.com.

In the coming months, I will offer a follow-up article about this topic, including any insights I receive about how to sway management so that our industry starts to practice what it preaches. I think we’ll all be better off for it!

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