For many years, many professional services organisations were afraid of allowing people to work at home. As an HR person I heard that all the time.
The questions leaders always asked were: How do we manage that? How do we ensure we all actually work? Will we work or clock off early? Some might say those concerns were due to a lack of trust.
And then, the office was taken away from us. We had no choice. Trust we must.
At Kilburn & Strode, as we had kept up with technology, and agile working, the switch was simple. Pack your laptop, perhaps get yourself a bigger screen and one of those useful back support products and get on with it.
We are highly adaptable aren’t we? We are faced with an unprecedented set of circumstances and we have made it work – we are working and keeping productive. We will of course find it hard to keep this up, to keep productive and to keep connected, but we will.
Our work has not stopped. But something has and perhaps that’s the real purpose of an office.
What has been taken away is our ability to look at someone’s face and body language for their reaction to seeing us, or what they think of our work product, or what they feel about the question we just asked them.
We miss hearing groups of people laughing in the distance as we pass through the corridors, seeing someone give a high five to congratulate a job well done. We don’t see the hugs that we give each other to support one another when times aren’t great. (And couldn’t we all use one of those now?) We are missing that most basic requirement – a physical connection.
Instead, we’ve found new ways to connect – virtual cooking classes, drinks meetings over Skype or Zoom and group chats all showing the positive and the not so positive of everyone’s days (just like we’d do while filling up our mugs for a cuppa in the work kitchen) We’ve learned that we can connect and stay connected, without being in the same place physically. FaceTime works, but don’t we miss actual face time?
When we get back to an office, I think we will all realise that the real purpose of the commute, or sitting near one another, or getting together around a table is to gauge from each other how we feel. We equally work through problems and projects together, pat each other on the back, and sometimes can just tell how someone is feeling by how they’re walking or sitting. It puts the person in personal connection.
The workplace will take on new meaning – a social meaning, a place to connect.
I expect that many of us will find a new balance between getting what we need from each other when we meet and knowing that working remotely works. I think the world of work will change, with working away from the office a choice. But I also think that we will crave, with new vigour and appreciation, the ability to connect, team work and socialise with our colleagues.
I look forward to seeing how we’ll interact, express appreciation, and inspire each other once we (finally) have some distance from social distancing.
Until then, let’s keep staying connected.
If you would like to contact Jonathan about this article or matters related to the subject of this article, don’t hesitate to get in touch.