By Giancarlo Di Vece
We’re going through a period that some are calling the “great resignation,” where there is added attrition and a kind of dynamism in the market. Going forward in this post-pandemic economy, fully remote organizations will naturally be better at attracting talent, but retaining that talent is going to be the real challenge.
From my perspective, big movement in the market is basically the response of not having any cultural engagement within the organization, mostly due to less interaction.
Why is this important? With so many people working from home for the past year and a half, it’s easy to see how all of a sudden people no longer recognize the place where they work. Work looks and feels different than it did before, so culture begins to lose its importance as well. People feel a huge loss in terms of personal connection, and affinity suffers as a result.
How do you build a bridge between the company and its culture to keep people engaged in a new hybrid or fully remote workplace?
After World War II, organizations followed a very hierarchical structure: Everybody had to see each other, as there was no way to stay connected without being present in the building. In the years since then, we had built the tools to understand what other people are working on from wherever and to collaborate asynchronously, but companies had been hesitant to use them to their fullest potential. Amid the worldwide shutdown, organizations that previously said they couldn’t do such a thing without at least a year’s preparation learned that they could actually accomplish such a feat within three weeks. Fast forward to today, and we are more mobile than ever.
Don’t get me wrong — I think there’s huge value in face-to-face communication. But it doesn’t have to be all the time. With time alone, you can actually do some work and really focus on that work, whether it’s from home or from wherever else you are located, and as a result, you feel more productive. That makes face-to-face time even more meaningful when it needs to happen.
It’s Not The Tools, But How You Use Them
Which tools should you use to keep everyone connected? Whether it’s FaceTime, Zoom, Teams, or any other option, that is ultimately based on your company’s preference. The tools themselves don’t matter as much as the connections they help to preserve.
However, it’s infinitely more important to determine ways to be way more effective and thus avoid burnout. For example, Microsoft has some great research around what taking breaks does to your brain, especially between conference calls or video calls. Having back-to-back meetings doesn’t allow your brain to cool off in-between, and that’s critical because calls have a different effect in your brain versus face-to-face meetings.
Educate your employee base in understanding how to avoid that burnout, suggesting which tools to use and when to use them, or when it’s a good idea to see each other face-to-face for meetings. As an added benefit, sharing those ideas within the entire organization and then seeing how they play out will also create some additional space for culture and for micro cultures, keeping the workplace relevant to the employees despite their physical connection.
At our own organization, up to half of our team has worked remotely for 12 years now, and we’ve learned a lot through the experience. Once the pandemic hit, we had to send everyone home to work. It was interesting to see how their connection to the organization dipped, and for many organizations, that’s the real fight: How do you keep people engaged?
Here’s what works for us, and what we recommend for other hybrid workplaces:
• Use tools to create collaboration. Asking people within the organization what they think is more effective than simply giving them tools. It’s important that everybody be on board with the same things to ensure effective use.
• Be more mindful about face-to-face interaction. Don’t set your meetings back-to-back if they’re video meetings, even if you were used to doing that pre-pandemic, as it can short-circuit your brain and lead to burnout.
• Follow a regular work schedule and routine as much as possible — and stop at a predetermined time. Get up and start working at the same time you used to when going into the office, and finish at a consistent time each day. Don’t overcompensate by working at all hours.
• Don’t hypermanage. It’s tempting to use the technology to track, micro- or hypermanage others. Trust your team leads and managers to get the job done, and measure by completion, not time or methods. It’s all about how successful your team is and how empowered they are to do things without you, because the best leaders are the ones who create a team that’s effective on its own. The true measure is, are they getting the job done, and if not, how can you facilitate it?
• Focus on security. In the hybridization of the workplace, the new way of working requires people working from multiple locations. Therefore, you need to have extremely strong security practices and policies in place, in addition to software that allows you to manage and control all company assets remotely.
A True Technological Revolution
The hybridization of the workplace is extremely exciting because it’s a true revolution from the post-World War II way of life to the technology and information era. I predict it’s a transition that will grant human beings a culture in which they can be more productive, creative, and engaged. Now, they can feel a strong emotional connection to the organization and their work, versus spending two hours a day commuting to and from work.
Isn’t that what true “connectivity” is all about?