We are halfway through 2020 and most businesses still have not returned to normal operations. Employees are scattered between home and the office. Many businesses have chosen to keep their employees remote indefinitely, in what is viewed as a progressive move toward a modern business networking environment.
Working remotely is a powerful tool that has been broadly implementation across many businesses, industries, and job functions this year. Now it feels like, the cat’s out of the bag. If employees can be productive at home, then why come into the office?
Working remotely does encourage employees to connect more often while they are off-site. It keeps communication channels open and helps your team stay connected. It eliminates annoying work commutes, traffic jams, and gas costs. Working from home is comfortable, convenient, conducive to a work-life balance this is slightly more skewed toward life. All of these are great. But a remote work environment cannot successfully simulate intangible benefits the office environment brings to your team.
I want to take a moment and champion the traditional office.
First, let me state, your employee’s health and safety are paramount. Never take chances when it comes to illness or injury. Make sure your staff knows that you are putting their safety first and that they are welcomed to raise any concerns they may have.
At IntelliSystems, we have team members who work remotely for a variety of reasons, that can be either personal or professional. But, once the need to work remotely is gone, they are welcomed back to the office.
Why is this important?
Communication channels change in a remote work environment. You can lose the casual spontaneity that happens in face to face interaction that builds relationships, encourage collaboration, and strengthens company loyalty. Face to face communication is essential for effective and efficient communications.
There is a commonly used, not so scientific, communication rule called the 55/38/7 rule. It suggests that 55% of communication is non-verbal gestures such as, posture, facial expression, and eye contact, etc. 38% is voice tone and just 7% of communication is the actual words spoken. Posture, countenance, and tone add context to words that affect and alter interpretation. Without context, the meaning is either muddled or completely lost, or worse incorrectly assumed by the other party. Who has not read an email or text message and thought the person on the other end was rude or irate, when in fact the sender had no idea of your interpretation and reaction? You cannot interpret tone in an email, and many office problems arise from this scenario.
In a work-from-home environment face to face conversations turn in to video calls, conversations become short direct messages, and emails . . . well, emails do not change much. According to the 55/38/7 rule, when you reduce communication to the electronic transfer of words without tonal context, you lose 93% of the message. You lose the way we understand each other, the way we relate to each other, and the way we elevate co-workers to teammates. Communication and collaboration can become perfunctory.
The office is a community where we share, collaborate, and support each other. Coworkers build important rapport by simply saying good morning, asking how a teammate is doing, or chatting in common areas. Members of my staff who work in different divisions or different capacities enjoy palling around. They make lunch plans. Discuss family life and personal milestones. They ask each other for advice and opinions. They celebrate personal and professional events together and provide support and solace during difficult times. When your team is remote it is easy for employees to become siloed and disconnected from the office community. They can lose sight of the interconnectedness between team members, which can jeopardize the company’s mission, culture, and production.
A well-organized staff knows how the work of one person affects the work of another. They understand that everyone has the same objective even if they have different tasks and responsibilities. And they can overcome obstacles and find success together. Simply put a safe, harmonious, and respectful office brings out the best in the entire team and enables us to accomplish work we could not do alone.
I know people are going to disagree with me. I know they are going to shout “coronavirus!”. So, let me reiterate, your employee’s health and safety are paramount. Never take chances when it comes to illness or injury, and make sure your staff knows that you are putting their safety first so that they can raise any concerns they may have.