This is a guest article from our friends at Paperform!
It’s clear that the last year had a huge impact on everyone, including businesses. Even minor changes have consequences, and it’s not always easy to predict all the ramifications that could come from 2020.
For instance, more people have been working remotely in the last year, encouraged by the perfect storm of seamless communication platforms becoming the norm, and of the need to socially-distance and in some cases, abide by stay-at-home governmental orders.
In other words, this topic has never been so relevant. Neither is it a temporary trend. In fact, according to a PwC survey of nearly 670 CEO’s, 78% confirm that remote work is a change worth implementing into the future. Furthermore, 81% of employees suggest that they would feel more allegiance to their employer if provided with the means to work with more flexibility.
What Does This Mean?
Businesses that aim to make working from home a permanent change are best served by researching just how positively this could affect their business in the long term. It is important to understand that if businesses are to move forward with working remotely, they will need to go about it in the right way.
As with anything, there are pros and cons to any new strategy. The positives are easy to see. Remote work is convenient, comfortable, it saves time, and it keeps people safe (especially during uncertain times).
However, there are certain aspects of working life that remote employees may miss out on if not carefully structured and addressed. For instance, staff proximity can often contribute to a sense of workplace unity, helping people feel comfortable and productive in their working relationships. Working from home can be physically healthy, but emotionally lacking, especially if your staff live alone.
As such, it is recommended that businesses encourage positive connections between their employees. It is possible to build strong relationships in a remote team. But how should any concerned manager achieve this?
Schedule Regular Weekly Meetings
One of the risks we run when allowing employees to work from home (even on a part-time basis), is that staff feel somewhat disconnected from one another. It can be healthy to touch base with the entire team each week, allowing your staff to see, hear and converse with one another. This highlights the fact that you’re working as a team. Discussing points, having a little laugh here and there, working through a problem with all of the interpersonal communicative tools we usually use (outside of highly formatted and somewhat ‘clean’ professional emails) can be a great idea for building and maintaining working relationships.
These meetings can help teams set goals together. Regular team catch ups also help with employees motivation, as well as touching base to see how everyone is doing and what the weekly challenges may have been. Furthermore, it allows your staff to feel as though they’ve been listened to – a virtue that is hard to gauge when dealing with email ‘read-receipts only. In this way, both you as a manager and your team help keep one another grounded and up to date, injecting some social validity in this artificial, yet highly convenient, environment.
Opt For Video Calls Instead Of Just Voice Calls
Two-thirds of communication is non-verbal. That might seem like a stark statistic, but it’s true. When keeping this in mind, it is clear to see how employees can benefit from having video communication with their colleagues.
Video calls have the benefit of allowing people to engage on an interpersonal level. It can sometimes be hard to gauge the tone and intent of a sentence over audio, and so in this light, you’re also decreasing the amount of possible communicative misunderstandings that may take place, even between two parties acting in good-faith.
Furthermore, video conferencing apps often allow for ‘screen share’ features, where pertinent information can be displayed on screen. This allows for a point-by-point examination of certain business criteria, which again, permits meetings to become fully digitized and still as effective as those hosted in-person. It’s quite clear to see how business owners are more readily considering the benefits of remote work. After all, with video connections, meetings still require our focus and as such, still enjoy a sense of structure and productive clarity.
Have A Virtual Water “Water Cooler”
One of the reasons that a workplace develops its own culture is that staff are able to discuss their daily activities, make jokes, catch up with one another, and discuss everything and nothing together in the work environment.
It can be healthy to encourage this, even remotely. This allows us to address one of the main drawbacks that come with remote work – that staff often feel segmented and isolated from one another, unless directly collaborating. Thankfully, there are alternative options. Apps like Slack, Telegram or Signal can allow for a less formal digital environment, within which your staff can speak together in a colloquial sense. Unlike a professional email, this doesn’t have to be perfectly formatted to be impactful. While certainly optional, it can be a healthy means by which staff can keep in contact with one another or discuss topics in both private and public group settings.
You may also find it healthy to curate the occasional office day or team retreat, a place where everyone can come together safely to talk about the week and relieve some stress. Team lunches, for instance, can be a great, still professional setting to enable this kind of communication.
It’s quite clear to see that our standard idea of a productive workplace has shifted and changed over the last year, and these changes will continue to integrate themselves into our normal productive output.
Overall, it’s good to ensure that the disadvantage of digital seclusion is addressed. By taking into account the human factor, you can ensure everyone in your team feels connected and supported by the team they work with. It may take weekly meetings curated with video and audio communication, a virtual water cooler where staff can bond, and a focus on securing and encouraging healthy workplace culture.
With the above efforts, you’ll see that despite modern technological conveniences, we’re all still only maximally effective and nourished when we’re together.
Rebecca DiCioccio is the marketing manager at Paperform. Outside of work, Rebecca can be found exploring the outdoors, or with a book in hand. Rebecca’s background in copywriting and keen interest in SEO and digital marketing mean she understands the importance of staying up to date with the latest trends in a dynamic and ever changing industry.