The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed how we operate and, to #slowthespread, the necessity of physical distancing has forced many businesses to adopt remote working practices and policies.
During these unprecedented times, it is crucial that business leaders not only adopt safe practices but also take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen their organisational culture and ingrain collaboration.
In this article, we will share how you can take advantage of a culture opportunity during this time as well as how to ensure your team stay connected whilst physically distant.
An interesting fact is that up until this year, the number of Australians who worked remotely was growing slowly but steadily, where approximately 29% undertook some work from home in 2019 (Retail, Transport and Manufacturing are the industries least likely to offer working from home, 2020), and the decision of how to work together as a team was up to businesses and personal choice.
The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 and mandated social distancing has resulted in an immediate change to the way we work and is understandably raising questions about how relationships are to be maintained when working from home.
Does physical distancing mean social distancing?
As we’re living the reality of the current pandemic, we have all been encouraged to practice social distancing and keep a certain distance between other people. It is unfortunate, given its negative implications, that the catch-cry ‘social distancing’ has been adopted to embody this new behavioural expectation.
A commonly referred to psychological principle called ‘proximity’ demonstrates that humans tend to have stronger relationships and more effective communications with people we physically see regularly. Our daily interactions reinforce our sense of well-being and belonging which is why, as lockdown measures become more severe, there is a worry that a lack of proximity could be a trigger for isolation.
It is therefore critical to the mental wellbeing of co-workers and leaders, that their relationships are maintained while working remotely. If there is a lack of proximity, take advantage of existing social business platforms to connect with your colleagues and strengthen relationships.
Could this be an opportunity for increased connection?
While it is easy to feel disconnected when working in isolation, there are also some unexpected advantages. Without the benefit of having co-workers in the same physical space, team members can’t be complacent with their communication. Without face-to-face interaction, conversations need to be more purposeful and this purposeful communication creates an opportunity to be meaningful.
By engaging in more of these kinds of conversations, this has the potential to help team members feel more connected and reinforce their sense of belonging.
The 29% of people working remotely prior to COVID-19 likely felt excluded from those who physically shared an office. The upside to the new compulsory distancing regulations is that many more people are in the same boat, making this the perfect opportunity to bring them all together!
Activate Collaborative Workspaces
If not already active, business leaders should set up collaborative workspaces that facilitate the same depth of communication, teamwork and productivity that employees are accustomed to in their physical workspace. This will likely involve a combination of live chats, video conferencing and collaboration tools.
Consider the idea of starting and ending the day with a video and setting up some water cooler and digital coffee break live chats to encourage the kind of spontaneous conversations that help build relationships in the office. Where possible, make chats open and visible to allow team members to feel like they aren’t missing anything, particularly if they weren’t present when the conversation was happening.
Consistent & Constant Check-Ins
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most impactful events and changes to lifestyle and circumstance experienced in well over a generation. Combine that with the new reality of working from home (including existing home dynamics) and business / company changes resulting from the virus, it’s safe to assume everyone will benefit from more support. It is highly recommended that you reach out frequently, as often as possible, across multiple touch points. Be attentive, offer help, and above all, encourage the sharing of feelings through open questions.
Following on from check-ins, ensure messages are carefully structured to lead with care. When chatting or writing, consider using emojis to convey emotion and sentiment. Frame the message positively and be clear on the intent of what is being communicated. Be mindful while communicating, and if there is any doubt or lack of clarity in what is being said, try and have a video call where faces and emotions can be seen.
We have all come to accept that working from home, in some capacity, will be the new norm but it is important to remember that physical distancing does not translate to social distancing.
In this video, Corporate Edge’s John Colbert demonstrates how this new reality provides an opportunity to encourage more connectedness and collaboration and for teams and cultures to thrive.
Want to learn more?
If you are working from home and want to learn how to get more out of your day while staying connected with your team, you might enjoy the following topics covered in our new interactive modules:
Especially created by our team to address the new challenges inflicted by COVID-19, these 40-minute learning modules detail step-by-step processes that will guide you to stay productive while working from home.
Click the links above for more information.