Recovering Connectivity in the Workplace in the Wake of COVID
Remote working may be the norm now, but we’re starting to see concerning long-term side effects such as a lack of connectivity in the workplace. For Stress Awareness Month 2021, Ezra looks at the challenge of a lack of connectivity and how to foster a culture that supports it positively within an organization.
The COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 drastically changed the way that companies operate. In fact, it showed a completely different side of workplace productivity that many of us have embraced and accepted as the norm now. For example, a survey carried out by the Pew Research Center showed that 20% of respondents worked from home before the COVID-19 outbreak. However, by the end of December 2020, that number jumped to a staggering 71%.
This shows that 2020 was a transformative year for many businesses. However, many of the telecommuting solutions that companies employed weren’t just temporary solutions. In fact, many businesses saw an opportunity to completely overhaul their office workflow to adopt remote working solutions that were much cheaper and easier to manage. Not only would this reduce operating costs, but it would allow these companies to hire remotely which opened them to a larger pool of talent to recruit from.
This is further backed up by another interesting statistic; around 54% of respondents said they would actually like to continue working from home after the outbreak ends. This shows that it’s not just the companies benefiting from remote working arrangements. Unfortunately, this is setting a rather concerning precedent moving forward and problems are already starting to seep through the cracks of an unconnected workplace.
The problems of a non-connected workforce
One of the biggest problems with working exclusively from home is that the workforce isn’t as connected as it used to be. At most, all you have are chat communication programs to stay in touch with other co-workers and the rest of your team. While some people may be used to communicating through text and speech alone, it’s surprisingly problematic for people who are accustomed to working in an office.
In fact, nonverbal communication (like body language) has been shown to carry between 65% and 93% more impact than spoken words. This shows that technology alone isn’t enough to help teams communicate properly. In order to reach peak efficiency, it’s important to realize that remote workflows have problems that need to be addressed.
Failing to address these problems can actually result in unneeded stress being added to the average workday. Failing to respect boundaries and not having a baseline of standards for your team to follow can lead to poor productivity.
But this was a problem even before the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2018 report by Dynamic Signal revealed that 33% of workers wanted to quit their jobs because of poor communication within the workplace. They felt uninformed about their role, they were confused about their role in the workplace, and it even caused workers to become anxious. When you consider how important face-to-face communication and body language are, then remove those due to the widespread adoption of remote workflows, you’ll start to notice the huge can of worms we’ve been collectively prying open throughout 2020 and now 2021.
In other words; remote workflows lead to poor communication and poor communication leads to workplace stress. And what does workplace stress lead to? A plethora of problems that no business leader wants to deal with.
Fostering a “connectivity culture”
Even if we can’t return to our workplaces right now, there are certainly many different ways to foster a connectivity culture that benefits your business and addresses some of the biggest concerns we have with long-term remote working. If we’re going to adopt remote workflows as a mainstay, then we need to stop treating it like a temporary solution.
- Start from management and make your way down. This means encouraging staff in leadership positions to play an active role in helping their teams communicate more clearly. This means using a webcam, microphone, and text chat together instead of just focusing on one option.
- You should also encourage your managers to check up on their staff at regular intervals. Achieving the right balance here is difficult. You don’t want to seem like you’re constantly looking over their shoulders, but you do want to boost morale and help keep them on track. The approach here is the most difficult part. You want to position yourself so that you’re offering assistance when possible, but you don’t want to constantly question your staff and pester them about their progress.
- Next, ensure that there are actually ways for your staff to get in touch with their managers. Set up new solutions and channels that enable your staff to freely ask questions, and encourage them to speak up if they’re having trouble with something. Don’t make it difficult for people to communicate between themselves.
- Group and team chats are also incredibly helpful for keeping people in touch with the rest of the business. However, these do need to be monitored and staff may need to be put aside and spoken to if they’re causing problems for others.
Even in a post-COVID world where we can return to our offices, these are essential components that help to foster a connected workplace culture. Make it easy for your staff to speak with each other, encourage managers to be helpful, and don’t make your team jump through hoops just to send a message to a senior member of staff.
How coaching can help you foster a connectivity culture
Taking an objective look at your workplace is probably the best way to help you foster a connected workplace culture. This is where leadership coaching can prove invaluable. With an independent and outside look at the way your company operates (perhaps leading by example using a remote solution such as a coaching app), you can quickly identify issues in your workplace that inhibit the adoption of a connectivity-positive culture.
By tackling these problems in a prompt timeframe, you can establish processes that encourage connectivity. This ultimately leads to less stress for your employees, increased productivity, and reinforced teamwork that makes everyone happier. When you consider that more than 90% of remote workers say they’re feeling stressed while working from home, connectivity really does become a pressing issue that must be addressed as soon as possible.