Digital work is salvation. But only if we critically perceive all the coming outs. Today Jens Winterhoff, Growth Catalyst at HRForecast and Father of five (OMG!) shared his extraordinary and very insightful view on things.
When assessing the work in the home office, I would like to appear as a skeptic today and mention three aspects that make me think.
The basis of relationships is communication. Where there is no more communication, a relationship is lifeless.
But now, apart from language, man has created other ways of communication, which are necessary for togetherness and understanding language. This is known as non-verbal communication. It includes gestures, facial expressions, and body language. In order to understand each other correctly, we need this whole picture. It helps us to assess the other person better and to arrive at a rounder result in our assessment through more perceptions.
Certainly, this is no guarantee of faultless judgment we have all experienced this in real life. Prejudices in both directions (+/-) led to the fact that we had to revise our opinion about persons or their statements. Nevertheless, I believe that this kind of “Whole-body communication” is a valuable commodity, which is an essential part of the socialization of the human being.
In digital communication, such as WhatsApp, where we usually only write, false, or missing emojis, which are supposed to enhance the expressiveness of letters (similar to gestures, facial expressions, etc.), very quickly cause confusion or even disaster. Remote work and Web conferences, be it by video or without, are in my opinion right in between. A kind of hybrid communication in which, however, the classic part is reduced to a more or less good portrait.
To what extent these changes in communication, be it digital or hybrid, are long-term, I cannot estimate the consequences for mankind. My limited, perhaps even clouded view of the development, but sees a regression in togetherness, a deterioration of communication and thus of relationships. Man, as a social being, must be on guard here.
Man is a herd animal, it’s easy to say.
Without looking too deeply at this now, at least the need for belonging cannot be denied and is even elementarily important for the psychological constitution of the human being. However, our society is developing into increasingly fragile structures. The family image, developed over many centuries, crumbles within decades and loses value. Single households increase rapidly, club life decreases rapidly, churches lose rulers of members and and and. A certain constant has been the collegial cooperation in the companies. One was, forced or hopefully not, part of an (office) community for a third of one’s life. People met in the hallway, in the canteen, discussed in meeting rooms, drank a coffee together at the bar table and personnel discussions took place from person to person.
When working from home, there is a danger of isolation. Tasks are so broken down that everyone can and must become lone fighters. The dependence on each other is reduced. I don’t want to deny the advantages this brings, but I am skeptical about the impact it has on our socialization.
I, therefore, think it is extremely important to take this danger of isolation seriously. The fact that it first begins as a feeling in a person and does not even have to be perceived before it becomes visible to the outside world does not make it any easier for the team and superiors.
Especially when employees are sent in a short time and have to accept through no fault of their own that they are currently “not needed”, maybe even have fears of losing their job and poverty,
…it is doubly important to keep an eye on the other person.
Otherwise, there is the danger of “losing” the employee. The identification with the company, the common, must be maintained. This is the responsibility of superiors and management. If this is not done, the above-mentioned feeling of isolation is intensified and the employee no longer experiences appreciation. What consequences this has for the employee’s mental health and what impact it has on his or her commitment to the company when it starts up again varies from individual to individual but should not be neglected.
3. Work-life balance
I don’t like that term. Maybe because I misunderstand it and have never found a way to live this work-life balance.
If you believe the statements on LinkedIn, people have worked more in the home office time. Worked more effectively. Without wanting to question that, even though I was more skeptical about the truth, there are points I would like to raise.
It is a good thing to have a physical distance between work and private life. This is also part of a healthy work-life balance. To gain distance.
But not everyone has a separate study. Particularly in a family environment, it is necessary to come to terms with space and surroundings (volume, Internet, daily routine). A challenge that is also stressful and can have consequences.
Besides, someone who has trouble switching off anyway finds it much more difficult to walk past the company laptop, not to read the teams’ messages and mails on the smartphone when it is long past time. A day of rest, as it was once introduced, can also become less important.
The lack of distance, be it locally or just in the head, clasps and will, I fear, significantly increase the number of mental illnesses (burn-out, depression, …) and the resulting physical damage.
So, what’s the line on this?
Prevent yourself from working longer hours when in lockdown
Set strict boundaries. Minimize in-work distractions. Focus on the positives. Don’t allow overworking to imperil your wellbeing at this difficult time.
Ensure business continuity amidst the challenges being faced
Establish a crisis team. Split team arrangements. Ensure the safety of employees. Make contingency plans for critical roles. Arrange flexible work. Communicate effectively.
Just because remote workers work more than 40 hours, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re maximizing their productivity during that time. Find the metric that’s most useful to your work or team so priorities are clear.
Build mutual trust
Help your immediate managers. Results from this study suggest that some managers may not know how to support their employees right now. Considering the magnitude of this crisis, that makes sense. Now is the time to ensure your immediate managers have the information, resources, skills, and support they need to help their direct reports get through what is—for many—a very anxious time.
Jens Winterhoff, Growth Catalyst
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