Michael Gray at Sensee explains how work from home is no longer about kitchen-table meetings and Zoom disasters.
The business press has recently been full of advice on how to get employees back into the office. The FT has talked of cash bonuses, yoga classes, and free lunches all being used to tempt people back from home. The Guardian is still talking about people working ‘at the kitchen table’ in September 2021.
People often use lazy stereotypes and clichés – it’s easy to create impactful stories that way – but the reality is that no responsible employer is still allowing their employees to work at the kitchen table. Our own posts on the acceptable professional and genuine work-life balance have been talking about this for months and our CEO, Mark Walton, recently talked about it on a podcast.
The kitchen-table era for those new to homeworking was back in March and April 2020 – when the crisis really started for most organisations. Since then all these companies will have addressed security concerns, the equipment required for remote working, and how to create the right physical space for homeworking. If they haven’t, then that should be the real news story.
One area of homeworking that has been consistently overlooked by the general news media is the technology and systems needed to connect teams together so they don’t feel alone at a remote location. This is where people should be paying more attention because these technologies and solutions will persist.
Whether your organisation is going to remain predominantly work-from-home or is now starting to adopt a hybrid approach (where some people are at home and others in the office) you’ll need to connect teams that are not always in the same room.
Employees left to work entirely alone, with nothing except their deadlines, frequently miss the social interaction that is the heartbeat of normal office life and often experience isolation. Many argue that this is where the innovation happens….. all those conversations by the coffee machine and water cooler.
I’m not so sure. There are many researchers that have argued about the emptiness of modern office life. Teams are frequently transient and many people feel lonely even when they are in an office environment. And office politics, of course, often ruins everything!
This is going to become an even bigger problem as more and more companies try to optimise hybrid working practices. When everyone is in the office, it’s easy to schedule meetings. When you don’t know which days people will be around then you need smarter systems or more rigid processes and processes to ensure meetings are effective.
It’s not about ‘dictating’ how your business works flexibly. It’s about recognising that the way it recruits, manages, trains, schedules, communicates and supports its people is different. In other words, old office systems and processes are rarely going to be the answer in the new world of WFH and hybrid.
But it’s curious that the media and industry analysts haven’t noticed just how many other companies have thought carefully about how to make work and social interactions function within a virtual environment. It’s not rocket science, just a focus on connectivity and team-working.