The majority of the British workforce has been working from home since the beginning of the lockdown, and this has translated into a change in the daily work routine and work relationships. Everything is done virtually now, and things like going for lunch with a colleague or having a chat in the kitchen seems like a thing of the past.
Companies have had to adapt quickly to this situation with almost no time to react. A recent study revealed that 76 per cent of companies have had to adapt and offer some or all of their products virtually.
Of course, working remotely can have its advantages, like no distractions from colleagues or being able to work from your sofa. In fact, British employees enjoy working from home - 67 per cent of them stated they prefer working remotely rather than going to the office.
In particular, the main benefit reported by employees has been not having to travel to work, saving at least a couple of hours a day - and that is not surprising since the average commute takes up to an hour getting to work every day. Other benefits stated by employees are being able to wear more casual clothes and also being able to keep a higher level of concentration.
However, the study also showed that people working from home can also feel isolated and lonely, especially the ones living alone.
The rise of collaboration tools
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way in which we work and using technology to communicate while working remotely has become the norm.
Collaboration tools have been around for a while. Before the lockdown they were often used as a way to communicate with freelancer employees or employees that weren’t based in the same office, providing proximity and a feeling of having a whole team together.
The use of collaboration tools that allow teams to work together while based in different locations has become part of daily life. They help employees work together while they are remote - sharing files through online workspaces, organising online meetings with video conferencing, or connecting external teams through real-time chat channels can be done using the right tools.
Most of these platforms are very appealing to employees because they feel like a social network. They are more likely to actively use the tools because it feels similar to other tools they use in their private life.
One of the key successes of collaboration tools is that they replace office interactions by allowing users to see each other and have a virtual interaction. While teams cannot physically be together during the lockdown, collaboration software is one of the closest ways to make up for it. This is due to the fact that we can see our colleague’s body language and facial expressions as well as hearing their voice.
How to avoid saturation while working remotely
To avoid technology saturation, it is important to make sure that communication between teams is efficient and well planned to avoid too many messages. For example, what can be a 5-minute face-to-face chat could easily turn into a 30-minute conference call.
Verbal communication is still important, but having an online centralised system like a task board or internal chat gives employees a reference point for when they need reminding of small details and it also helps to reduce unnecessary calls.
Defining the work-life balance
Sometimes it can seem difficult to switch off when working remotely - we don’t have to commute and feel like we always have to be ‘online’. Is important for businesses to make sure they help their employees handle their work-life balance. It is important to check in on the wellbeing of your teams.
With so many conversations happening digitally, managers should make time for relaxed face-to-face time with individuals and focus on their wellbeing, rather than their workload.
Create virtual ‘social spaces’ that replace the old ones
Creating a social space that replaces the office space is a good way to give employees a space they can virtually meet and chat as they would do in the office kitchen. For example, setting up a virtual kitchen. The way it works is there is a link to a video conference room that is open 24/7. It is a place where employees can chat with one another, including those from different teams. Essentially, it replaces a chat you might have had in the kitchen during a coffee break.
Loneliness and social isolation are one of the main issues faced by people working remotely at present. Therefore, having a spot (even virtual) for employees to gather and chat can help offset some of these feelings when working from home.
Is remote working here to stay?
The Covid-19 pandemic has only helped in making remote working more present for companies. Those that had a flexible working policy in place before the lockdown, like allowing staff to work one or some days from home have had to adapt less than those that expected employees to work from the office all week.
Most companies have been forced to implement new software and offer products online to survive. It is yet to be seen whether companies will leverage this situation that has forced them to fully digitally transform or if they will go back to the old ways once normality returns.
But this pandemic is not only impacting many aspects of our lives such as sleeping and eating patterns, but also the way in which we interact with others at work - and on a personal level. We are not using technology during working hours, we are also using it to communicate with family and friends via social media, video calls or instant messages when we are not working.
Therefore, it is vital to create new policies and new routines of communications between teams that will avoid technology saturation. It is important to remember to keep the work-life balance when working remotely and provide employees with the right tools to avoid technology saturation and create a healthy working environment.
Sonia Navarrete, Analyst, Capterra