Ryan Patrick, BITS Chief Technology Officer
It’s been a year since practically EVERYONE started working from home, and company after company stated that this will be the “new normal” for the future of work. But, where exactly are we now – one year later? Is remote work really all it’s cracked up to be? Does it really help with the work-life balance…or has it blurred the lines even more? What about productivity for your team? Has it gone up, down, or stayed the same? Is a Webex or Zoom meeting all day better than meeting in the same room? Oh, and let’s not forget about burnout and fatigue, how’s that going for you?
I’m not intending to be a pessimist about all of this. Hell, I was the one talking about remote work and tips before the pandemic ever started, but I also expressed that having options, separation, and balance are key to high-performing teams and individuals.
After 12 months of working from home, with a few trips to both our Newark and Lemoyne offices, I’m looking forward to getting back into the office on a more regular basis myself. I posed a few questions in my opening, and I will talk about them more in an upcoming podcast, but for this blog, I’m going to focus more on where I feel things are heading as we return to a sense of normalcy.
Who’s sick of staring at your screen all day or constantly connected to a device all day? Some days I feel like a Borg (yes, I went Star Trek on this), as I am now always connected to a device. Days start by looking at emails and social media, then with no commute anymore, I immediately jump into a continuous stream of Webex/Zoom/Teams meetings. Then, when it’s time to work on other things, you are still online, with distractions of IMs and emails annoying you. It’s so much, that I turned off as many notifications as I possibly can.
And those team or customer meetings just aren’t the same on video. Yeah, you get to see everyone’s smiling face, but we as humans feed off the energy we transmit to each other, and that energy doesn’t multiplex or demultiplex like audio and video signals. We have lost our ability to connect with each other through those cosmic particles we all share. Without the energy from others, we don’t excel the same way we have in the past.
Some may call the future of work a “Hybrid Workforce”, which to me, sounds like another way of transitioning the Borg into society. I think a “Hybrid Workforce” is more like letting people work the way they want to work. Team meetings to solve problems, generate ideas, and get creative need to be in-person, so as things become safe, allow your teams to meet and feed off each other’s energy. Then give them the time at home or in the office where they feel the most comfortable to work. Don’t try to force schedules with office rotations if you don’t have to. What I’m trying to say: create a flexible work environment where your team has options for what works best for them.
With a flexible schedule, you give your team the ability to help avoid burnout, something I’m sure everyone can relate to this past year, and if you don’t relate, you are not looking at it close enough. Burnout has affected me in many ways. I’ve shared it with my team, and I’m doing my best to work through my own burnout reduction plan and helping them do the same. But I’ll save my full thoughts on avoiding burnout for another blog time.
My takeaway is this: talk with your team members and employees if you are serious about flexible work locations and a hybrid workforce. There are a lot of great resources out there that can help with how to make your workspace more flexible with scheduling or hot desking, collaboration devices with Webexboards and Room Systems to tie together those remote and in the office, and more importantly, how to lead the transition to help your team members find a balance that works for them!