Today, people often ponder over the effects of the coronavirus crisis, how it will change work habits, labor relationships, our need in office space, and the popularity of remote work. Let me add another factor to this list – the role of an organization in people’s lives.
Let’s recall where people used to meet back in the day. 150 years ago, people would find their couple in the neighborhoods where they lived and worked. 50 years later people used to date at culture and recreation clubs, spa resorts and boarding houses, and then later at discos. In the early 2000s, dating websites drastically diminished the role of clubs and discos in dating. Another 5 years later dating apps completely replaced clubs in this business. How is dating relevant in this case?
An office is not just a place where you create products or services for your company. It is also an environment where we find new acquaintances, make friends, and build long-term relationships. Close contact of people in the office, chit-chats in the kitchen, smoking, or drinking coffee together, all of this helps to build these tight relationships. In the past five years, people often downplayed these small factors focusing instead on the work-life balance debate. Younger employees often expected flexible work schedules and remote work complaining about the lack of time for personal life, meaning life beyond the office. The coronavirus accelerated this trend threatening to diminish the role of an organization in people’s lives, just as apps made clubs irrelevant in dating.
What will change for an employee if remote work becomes a new standard while live meetings with colleagues become just a scheduled requirement once a week? I am confident that companies will maintain employee efficiency even in a remote mode thanks to rapidly developing software and faster telecom solutions. In this case, I am not talking about full-time remote work. Of course, people will see each other regularly, gather in teams, work together both remotely and in the office in groups. However, people will see each other in the office and spend time together much less than they used to – maybe even by 90%.
How will your life as an office employee change if you rarely see your colleagues in person? Will the office employee become more of a social being? Will new social connections outside the office replace office relations? For example, an acquaintance made with a barista in a café, a new friend at a party, in a gym, or a park. Maybe instead of office communication with colleagues, we will dive deeper into social networks and become members of communities on Facebook. The answer is still unknown, although many would not want the culture of meeting people to move into the virtual world of social networks. But even if that happens, why should it bother the employer?
Social connections in the office are an additional pillar and a glue that keeps the team together. In addition to the company’s brand and values, office life itself is important to employees, although they often complained about its boundaries and limitations in the past.
Numerous surveys show that at least 50% of employees want to return to the office as soon as possible after the lockdown. That makes sense because self-isolation is a burden and people long for real-life communication. You may even argue that the office helps you to be organized and creates a barrier between work and your personal life. Or the office allows you to express yourself in different ways: as a businessperson and as a family member (a loving wife, partner, or father). This is true, but there is also another side of the coin.
When the first wave of euphoria passes and people face everyday challenges of commuting to work (2-3 hours a day), some employees will want to stay home to spend this time for their benefit or with their families. The trend of remote work is already spreading and cannot be stopped. And if so, what new magnets of attraction can an employer offer to keep employees loyal to the company and common cause? How to keep up the fire of interest and creativity remotely without this social glue?
The answers to these questions are still shaping up. But first, companies should realize that the coronavirus crisis will change the relationship between employers and employees, and you should be morally prepared for it. Below are some tips for employers:
- Communicate more often with your team via regular video calls. Unlike voice conference calls, video calls are better at invoking non-verbal communication.
- Think about processes within the company that will focus the team on deadlines and quality, such as regular status reports, calendar reminders, and task management apps.
- Create a mentoring culture in your team. In addition to professional growth, mentoring is a social bond that unites the team.
- Having fun is possible even in a remote mode. For example, try online quests, online games such as “Jeopardy!” or even online get-togethers over a glass of wine.
Incidentally, similar problems of “remoteness” in social contacts will arise not only in communication with your people but also with clients. Consider maintaining regular contact with clients through webinars and regular calls. But try not to overkill by drowning clients in your constant communications. Otherwise, you will annoy them.
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Posted on June 22, 2020