17 Aug 2021 Andrew Spicer
Is your new working norm spent online or face to face?
After all of the pandemic lockdowns, the increase in virtual meetings, working remotely and returning to office working (albeit flexibly), how do we balance the virtual with reality?
I have always been a firm believer in meeting and speaking with people in person; however, I believe in using tools to increase efficiency and avoid unnecessary processes. The drive to digitising documentation and removing paper from the workplace started many years ago and now (partially due to the Covid19) includes all aspects of business life and how can we operate without restrictions (of paper or anything else) from any location.
However, having stated these beliefs, I also strongly support the need for local collaboration. We can argue that we collaborate more when we are together in the workspace with colleagues. It is just human nature to work together in person, ask questions to each other, help out when you hear someone struggling with something or resolve topics that arise out of a general conversation over coffee. These things may eventually happen when working remotely and using digital platforms, but not as quickly, or impacting business efficiency and customer service.
Still seeing the benefit of team working side by side in the office, to collaborate and share, follow up with each other after customer conversation and general conversations (water cooler chat), which happens naturally when in person and does not via the digital platforms when working remote.
The digital platforms (Teams, etc.) provide excellent and rapid connectivity (irrespective of location, office, home, client site, etc.), which, when incorporated into working practices, customer support/service and projects, can facilitate larger gatherings, quicker organisation of meetings etc., which is a definite benefit to all. I have seen the rapid resolution of clients issues with business software through Teams to instantly get all parties required (client, data centre, software provider and support consultants) into a virtual room where everyone participated and fixed the problem. Previously it would have taken a lot longer and involved numerous emails, phone calls, and possibly even travelling to the client site.
We've seen engagement with customers rise since we introduced digital platforms. Historically, people would send emails and wait for answers; now, they use instant Teams Chat or jump on a call at a minutes notice.
So we can see benefits for both virtual and reality (in the office) and challenges for both.
Therefore, my view is that the flexible nature of work is good; it keeps colleagues engaged, improves life balance, and reduces traffic. Combine this with agreed days together in the office, and we benefit from the best of the new world.
Longer-term we may get more used to operating via digital platforms. Still, until it becomes human nature to interact via a digital platform in the same way we do in-person, the need within the modern workplace for a hybrid work pattern of virtual and reality will be necessary to gain the benefits from both. And all of this is only focusing on the business aspects, there are and always will be the need for people to meet and interact in person from an emotional wellbeing perspective and to help develop and maintain the sense of place, purpose and belonging.
Would you be interested to hear from anyone who has ideas on improving natural collaboration via digital platforms?