Were we always working remotely?
How forced remote working has highlighted our existing workplace culture
The bedroom is the office. The sofa chair is where crucial deals are negotiated. Coffee breaks in your own kitchen. Remote-working has seemingly crash-landed upon us, with only an internet connection separating us from our colleagues. But although our working arrangements have changed, the crisis has actually shed light on the working culture we already had in place. How effectively do we communicate? Are there too many silos? Who’s interacting with who and how often? As workplace culture becomes interwoven with remote culture, it is our pre-existing people culture that will define how we rise to this new challenge. But were we always working remotely? And if so, how do we take advantage of the present crisis?
Instant messaging, online collaboration and video conferencing have gradually digitised the workforce over the last decade. But while digital communication can supplement the working relationships within an organisation, they can also anonymise the environment. This is compounded in larger organisations where cross-company communication is more challenging. How can a company that employs thousands of people meet the individual needs of its staff? How does a global organisation, which reaches out to the world, connect the people inside its very own company? Significantly, these environments will always be tempted by short, sharp digital communications and faceless interactions. It is within this landscape that silos are formed and remote workplace culture is cultivated, even when surrounded by colleagues.
The present situation has undoubtedly been disruptive. Clearly there are logistical issues that have complicated this transition and made it very different from the working life we were used to. However, the way in which we connect during lockdown says everything about the workplace culture we had in place prior to the pandemic, and the one we’ll return to in the future. Although the crisis has highlighted our detachment from each other in the workplace, remote working doesn’t have to mean working in isolation. In our increasingly digitised workspaces, our colleagues have never been closer, even when we’re miles apart. How can you use this crisis to improve communication when we eventually return to office life? What digital tools can you use to connect your employees in a way that’s inclusive rather than isolating? Can you erase silos by fostering a more collaborative culture?
The surge in video conferencing wasn’t just born out of necessity. It implies that when people perceive themselves to be ‘alone’ or working ‘remotely’, their instinctive reaction is to reach out to their colleagues and talk. Therefore, the conditions need to be created within the workspace to facilitate face to face interactions on a regular basis. Furthermore, if the present situation has encouraged people to interact and share knowledge within their team, can this be replicated across your entire organisation?
While isolation has forced us to self-reflect as individuals, let’s use our evolving workspaces as an opportunity to think connectively, rather than remotely.