Remote Living Has Eroded Our Empathy and Executives Must Find a Way To Understand Their Staff

FRANCE-HEALTH-VIRUS-LABOUR-WORK-TELETRAVAIL-HOMEOFFICE

It is difficult to count what we have lost during the pandemic. We’ve lost jobs, loved ones, incomes and our social lives. Living and working remotely has also meant we are losing our empathy for colleagues. This is especially true of business leaders and executives who need to be able to understand the problems their employees are grappling with as we leave lockdown.

This loss in our ability to empathize with one another is not new. In 2018, 51 per cent of Brits said they thought it was declining, compared with just 12 per cent who thought it was increasing. The pandemic has supercharged this. We are looking at one another through screens and heavily ensconced in our own worlds, so it is difficult to expand our awareness to people with different experiences.

There is a crucial difference between empathy and sympathy. To sympathize with someone means we feel sad for their misfortune. Empathy, on the other hand, means understanding and sharing the feelings of another.

Throughout the pandemic, most of us have been able to sympathize with those who have lost jobs or family members. We have been able to feel compassion for those living in cramped quarters. But by being physically separated from them, we have not been able to truly understand and empathize with those people.

We have become distanced from our employees and, more widely, our customers – the

majority of who increasingly want to deal with companies and brands that demonstrate their care for people and the planet. As offices start to reopen, it is vital we can act with empathy towards our staff and those we serve. This is crucially important for those at the top of businesses, who have kept their jobs and had a different experience of the pandemic.

In order to understand the customers and people they are serving, business leaders need to be able to understand their staff. There is a huge array of experience just waiting to be tapped into to create a more empathetic work environment. Some communities are more tight-knit than others and have had better support systems throughout lockdown. Younger workers may have been more isolated and need more help and encouragement returning to the office.

Often senior executives have more in common with other senior executives than their customers and other target audiences, such as staff. Therefore, learning how to rebuild lost empathy will mean spending more time with the people you’ve never met. To lead with listening and not opining, to immerse yourself first-hand in the real-world experience of your customers’ lives rather than just reading reports about them.

On a practical level, this might look like asking for written feedback from staff on their experience of lockdown. It could also mean trying to spend time in the office coffee shop. Appearing physically accessible to employees will encourage conversations that can never happen over email.

There is also a place for data, but not as we know it. In today’s big data era, digital interaction between companies and customers means businesses have access to more data than ever before. Sourcing the most valuable data isn’t the only challenge. When there is an over-reliance on endless sheets of numbers it can be difficult to define behaviors. There is a risk of losing a richness of understanding. One-on-one interviews with staff or customers can be more useful than “big data”.  It can be costly and time-consuming and, because  of this, it often gets left behind.

However, with so much of the same data out there, it is in the small, slow data that the most striking insights can be found – nuanced findings that can make all the difference between people thinking you and your business are empathetic, or not.

By:   Joint Chief Strategy Officer at BBH London

Source: Remote living has eroded our empathy and executives must find a way to understand their staff – CityAM : CityAM

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Would you consider yourself an empathetic person at work? Are you always willing to lend an ear to your co-worker’s latest band practice drama, or would you prefer to keep conversations at the corporate level?

A recent survey conducted for the 2018 State of Workplace Empathy reported that a whopping 96% of respondents rated empathy as an important quality for companies to demonstrate. Despite this, 92% of employees believe that empathy remains undervalued at their company, which is an increase from results in prior years.

Empathy is described as not just understanding another person’s perspective, but truly putting yourself in their shoes and feeling those emotions alongside that person. It’s a cornerstone of emotional intelligence, and when a workplace demonstrates empathy, there are countless studies that correlate it to increased happiness, productivity, and retention amongst employees.

Employers, Here Are 4 Ways You Can Begin To Effectively Tackle Employee Burnout

Tired Business woman

As the pandemic lingers, employee burnout is at historic levels. More than 70% of employees reported being burnt out and feeling that their employers aren’t doing enough to address workplace burnout. Workplace burnout is commonly defined as extreme physical and emotional exhaustion that results in a lack of professional efficacy, increased cynicism, lack of engagement and depleted energy.

Employee burnout doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a series of triggers that occur over time causing even the most passionate employee to become disengaged.

Some warning signs that an employee is likely burnt out include:

  • Detached from the workplace culture
  • Loss of motivation and enthusiasm for their job
  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased mistakes and poor memory
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Irritable and more sensitive to feedback
  • Increased negativity and cynical outlook
  • Increased absenteeism

Rather than address the root cause of an employee’s burnout, companies believe they can reverse it by giving them more money, a new title or offering more fun perks. While this may be a short term solution, the root cause of the issue hasn’t been addressed and it will inevitably resurface.

Suzie Finch, founder of The Career Improvement Club, explained, “once an employee has lost the motivation, drive and trust of their employer it’s very hard to regain it back.” As such, the employee and company end up parting ways.

This is due to the employee growing resentful and leaving on their own accord, the employee becoming vocal about their grievances to the point of termination or the manager writing the employee off until they can push them out. Here are four ways employers can begin to address employee burnout.

Foster A Mental Health Friendly Culture

Tackling burnout is more than implementing a well-being program. It’s changing workplace habits, identifying root causes and utilizing leadership to set the tone moving forward. Employees look to their managers and leadership to learn the norms and acceptable behaviors of the workplace. Thus, leadership needs to be the champions of mental health and well-being. When employees see their manager work through lunch, not take PTO or work while on vacation, they assume they need to do the same as well. This perpetuates a culture of burnout.

In order to provide mental health support, employers need to seek the feedback of their employees to understand what’s creating the stress. Burnout can result from various factors such as an unmanageable workload, no support, an inflexible schedule, lack of expectations and role clarity, unrealistic deadlines, micromanaging and unfair treatment, to name a few.

Here are some ways employers can start to reverse burnout through mental health

  • Create a mental health strategy and actively promote to employees
  • Actively work to mitigate an overwhelming workload
  • Revisit workplace policies to create more flexibility for employees
  • Seek out Employee Assistance Program (EAP) details and share with employees
  • Encourage employees to take mental health breaks throughout the day at their own discretion
  • Host meditation or yoga sessions for employees to participate in
  • Empower employees to take control of their schedule and set boundaries
  • Encourage employees to use their vacation days
  • Create a safe space for employees to feel comfortable opening up to their manager when they’re struggling with their workload
  • Create open and transparent two-way communication

While this isn’t a conclusive list, it’s a start. Each workplace and employee situation is different. Most importantly, managers need to be mindful and observant for when employees are at their emotional edge. The worst thing companies can do is seek feedback and ignore it, make excuses for it or make false promises.

Embrace A Culture Of Emotion

Most companies abandon their own core values to avoid dealing with the emotional aspect of their employees. For example, companies tout putting their people first, yet they try to suppress any emotion that isn’t positive. By doing so, they believe they can create a culture where they can manage how employees feel and express themselves. However, the Harvard Business Review said, “most companies don’t realize how central emotions are to building the right culture.

They tend to focus on the cognitive culture: the shared intellectual values, norms, artifacts and assumptions that set the overall tone for how employees think and behave at work.” While that’s incredibly important, emotional culture is just as critical.

Companies who ignore or fail to understand how emotions contribute to the overall well-being of the culture will undoubtedly suffer as a result. Embracing a culture of emotion means creating a safe space where employees feel comfortable expressing their feelings, concerns and share when they’re struggling. Research shows that emotions influence an employee’s creativity, decision making, performance and overall commitment to the company. All of which impact the bottom line.

Ensure Employees Are Taken Care Of

While most burnout is due to experiences in the workplace, external influences are also a contributing factor. External stressors employees commonly face are financial problems, family and relationship issues, pet concerns, addiction, social disadvantages, discrimination, abuse, trauma, bereavement or personal health issues, to name a few.

Ensuring employees are taken care of means having the right programs and resources available to support them. This can be having an EAP, a mental health program such as Fringe, offering telebehavioral health benefits, having a personal coach available and more. Many companies are revising their benefits to now include dog walking, pet sitting and grocery delivery services to alleviate employee stress.

Ditch The Traditional 9-5

Expecting employees to work traditional working hours is quickly becoming an archaic practice. Companies are now shifting to more flexible schedules with established core working hours. Core working hours may be defined differently for each company but ultimately it’s when everyone must be present and available for meetings. Outside of those core working hours, managers have the trust and expectation that employees will complete what’s expected of them when they’re most productive.

Managers are empowering employees more than ever to own their calendar through time-blocking. Rather than time-blocking an entire day or week out, Stacy Cyr, director of marketing at Barton Associates, recommends employees to build in 20% more time for meetings, deadlines and questions. Not only does this reduce stress, but it also gives a buffer for when things pop up throughout the day.

Likewise, no meeting days are becoming increasingly popular. While it may not be possible to block off an entire day, having the ability to have a meeting-free afternoon during the week is crucial for a deep work session without interruptions.

I’m a Leadership Coach & Workplace Culture Consultant at Heidi Lynne Consulting helping individuals and organizations gain the confidence to become better leaders for themselves and their teams. As a consultant, I deliver and implement strategies to develop current talent and create impactful and engaging employee experiences. Companies hire me to to speak, coach, consult and train their teams and organizations of all sizes. I’ve gained a breadth of knowledge working internationally in Europe, America and Asia.

I use my global expertise to provide virtual and in-person consulting and leadership coaching to the students at Babson College, Ivy League students and my global network. I’m a black belt in Six Sigma, former Society of Human Resources (SHRM) President and domestic violence mentor. Learn more at http://www.heidilynneco.com or get in touch at Heidi@heidilynneco.com.

Source: Employers, Here Are 4 Ways You Can Begin To Effectively Tackle Employee Burnout

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Related Links:

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JD Nahrgang, FP Morgeson… – Journal of applied …, 2011 – psycnet.apa.org
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The practical paradox of technology: The influence of communication technology use on employee burnout and engagement

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Employees feel empowered by CTU because it allows them to establish a connection to their …
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(job resources and demands) influence feelings of work-related burnout and work

Safety at work: a meta-analytic investigation of the link between job demands, job resources, burnout, engagement, and safety outcomes.

JD Nahrgang, FP Morgeson… – Journal of applied …, 2011 – psycnet.apa.org
… Job demands were found to hinder an employee with a negative relationship to engagement,
whereas job resources were found to negatively … Finally, we found that burnout was negatively
related to working safely but that engagement motivated employees and was …

Linking physician burnout and patient outcomes: exploring the dyadic relationship between physicians and patients

JRB Halbesleben, C Rathert – Health care management review, 2008 – journals.lww.com
Background: Although patient outcomes of hospital stays
have been widely explored, particularly pa.

Why does organizational identification relate to reduced employee burnout? The mediating influence of social support and collective efficacy

L Avanzi, SC Schuh, F Fraccaroli, R van Dick – Work & Stress, 2015 – Taylor & Francis
Employees answered to the question: “All things considered, how satisfied are you with your … Why
does organizational identification relate to reduced employee burnout … Maslach Burnout Inventory:
Adattamento e taratura per l’Italia [The Maslach Burnout Inventory: Adaptation …

[HTML] Burnout syndrome should not be underestimated

Y Güler, S Şengül, H Çaliş, Z Karabulut – Revista da Associação …, 2019 – SciELO Brasil
… the employees with a history of trauma in the last year than in employees who had … 2. Brewer EW,
Shapard L. Employee burnout: a meta-analysis of the relationship between age and … 3. Bridgeman
PJ, Bridgeman MB, Barone J. Burnout syndrome among healthcare professionals …

Cited by 3 Related articles All 5 versions

Employee adiposity and incivility: Establishing a link and identifying demographic moderators and negative consequences.

KA Sliter, MT Sliter, SA Withrow… – Journal of Occupational …, 2012 – psycnet.apa.org
link between adiposity and incivility, and how this might impact employee burnout and withdrawal …
used to more fully test the relationships among incivility, adiposity, burnout, and withdrawal …
Preliminary data from 341 student employees revealed that being overly adipose was …

“I laughed so hard my side hurts, or is that an ulcer?” The influence of work humor on job stress, job satisfaction, and burnout among print media employees

TA Avtgis, KR Taber – Communication Research Reports, 2006 – Taylor & Francis
… collection, the researchers went on site to hand out questionnaire packets to employees … many
psychological, affective, and behavioral factors that contribute to employee burnout syndrome …
Further investigation into other communication related constructs and the link to negative …

Burnout as a predictor of all-cause mortality among industrial employees: a 10-year prospective register-linkage study

K Ahola, A Väänänen, A Koskinen, A Kouvonen… – Journal of …, 2010 – Elsevier
… was to investigate whether burnout predicts all-cause mortality among forest industry employees …
age group as a potential moderator of the relationship between burnout and mortality … The
researchers gave each employee in the corporation an identification code, which was …

[HTML] Burnout syndrome in health-care professionals in a university hospital

LC de Paiva, ACG Canário, ELC de Paiva China… – Clinics, 2017 – SciELO Brasil
… case of outsourced employment, can also lower PA and undervalue employees since no … Risk
factors and prevalence of burnout syndrome in the nursing profession … The reciprocal relationship
between work characteristics and employee burnout and engagement: a longitudinal …

Cited by 62 Related articles All 10 versions

Burnout and risk of coronary heart disease: a prospective study of 8838 employees

S Toker, S Melamed, S Berliner, D Zeltser… – Psychosomatic …, 2012 – journals.lww.com
Objective Burnout is a negative affective state consisting of emotional exhaustion, physical fatig.

The practical paradox of technology: The influence of communication technology use on employee burnout and engagement

CL Ter Hoeven, W van Zoonen… – Communication …, 2016 – nca.tandfonline.com
Employees feel empowered by CTU because it allows them to establish a connection to their …
resources (JD–R) model to link the literature on paradoxes to employee well-being … job conditions
(job resources and demands) influence feelings of work-related burnout and work

You’re Still Doing Remote Work All Wrong

March 18, 2005, I cleaned out my desk at Registered Rep. magazine, the financial publication I was (I can admit it now) a rather terrible business reporter for, and left a job I’d held for two years. I didn’t leave on bad terms. I liked all my co-workers and there were no sour feelings, but I also didn’t have another job set up.

I just knew I wasn’t a very good business reporter, my boss agreed with me, and thus we went our separate ways. I turned in my key card, filled out some paperwork with HR, and hit the Irish pub across the street for a round of goodbye beers. I wasn’t sure what I’d do next. Maybe try freelancing for a while?

And that, friends, was the last day I worked in an office. Six months later, I founded the sports website Deadspin out of my apartment, and I’ve been working at home as a writer ever since. It has been so long since I worked in an office that my non-office work life is now old enough to drive. Considering every story I’ve read about in-person office life in the last 16 years has been about all the terrible things you’re doing to each other in cubicle-land, it does not seem that I am missing out on much.

What I discovered upon leaving office life was how much more immediately productive I became when I no longer had to commute back and forth every day, when no one ever came by my desk to interrupt me just as I’d really start to hit my groove, when I didn’t feel like my boss would come up and start breathing down my neck at any given moment.

To be sure, working from home isn’t for everybody, but it clearly worked for me: I can’t imagine working any other way now. I certainly didn’t get it right the first year, but I have developed all sorts of lifehacks and shortcuts to maximize my efficiency and sustain a comfortable work-life balance. I’m good at this.

I’ve watched during the past year as you have broken every cardinal work-at-home rule that I’ve honed to a science over the last 16 years.

But then the pandemic hit, and suddenly, many of you were working at home, too. And you, no offense, are terrible at working remotely. You’re all rookies, and you keep making rookie mistakes. I’ve watched during the past year as you have broken every cardinal work-at-home rule that I’ve honed to a science over the last 16 years; it’s a little like watching a toddler try to use a chainsaw. And now the whole world’s a bloody mess.

With the accelerated vaccine rollout and large swaths of the workforce likely returning to the office at some point this year, we’re (hopefully) going to be returning to some semblance of normal — or at the very least a New Normal. But there are still going to be hundreds of thousands of people working from home that previously weren’t before the pandemic. You all need to step up your remote work game and get a lot better at this or risk taking the rest of us down with you. To that end, here are five unbreakable rules, if you’re going to commit to remote working for the long haul.

  1. Do not just wear your pajamas all day. I’m not saying you have to put on a suit and tie like you’re working at a bank or something. (But also it wouldn’t hurt?) Your mind, body, and soul can’t help but not take anything you’re doing all that seriously if you’re still wearing your bedclothes all day. You obviously don’t have to be formal, but you have to set very clear boundaries for “work time” and “off time,” and a great way to do that is to dress accordingly. I recommend, at a minimum, workout clothes, which at least hint to your mind, body, and soul that you should be doing something right now. Changing your clothes before you sit down to work tricks you into believing your surroundings have changed. And tricking yourself that you’re under more scrutiny than you actually are is a key part of working from home. It is truly shocking how many people tell me that they just wear pajamas all day when they’re working at home. No wonder you’re not getting anything done.
  2. Conversely, do not forget that you are also in your home. Whenever someone who has always worked in an office finds out I’ve worked out of home for so long, they always say something like, “I don’t know how you do it. Don’t you just want to go lie down rather than work?” But in practice, it’s the opposite problem: When your home is your office, that means you are in your office all the time. After all, there is always some work to do, and if you are not careful, you will just spend all your waking hours doing it. And we have enough of a national issue with workaholism and burnout as is. The problem is not remembering your home is your office; the problem is remembering that it is not just your office. During the pandemic, it is increasingly obvious that some of you are just sitting at your desk every hour of the day… and nowhere else in your home or apartment. It’s your living area. Live in it.
  3. Limit how much time you spend on social media. This is just a good life tip in general, but the problem with being at your computer all day — particularly when we’re all in the middle of a global pandemic — is that you can get sucked into a doomscrolling black hole. (And after all: That’s supposed to be what lying in bed and not sleeping is for!) Social media is making us all crazy anyway, but when you combine it with cabin fever, you get, well, you get the total madness we’ve all been experiencing over the past year. I recommend the Freedom app, which will block whatever sites you want it to, for as long as you want it to. You’ll be surprised how much happier and productive you are.
  4. Set a clear schedule with set parameters. This goes hand in hand with Rule №2, but you have to make yourself, every day set a time that you stop working, no matter what. (You know: like a job.) I recommend thinking of the day not in terms of hours, but in terms of tasks. Make a list at the beginning of the day. If you get all the tasks done before your set hour, great: You get time to go read a book, play a video game, or put your pajamas back on. But no matter what: Don’t go past that set time, or add to your lists of tasks. Otherwise, you just won’t stop.
  5. Go outside. This is vital, even in a pandemic. (Especially in a pandemic.) People that work from home constantly have to remember that, in spite of all immediately available evidence in front of their face, there is in fact a whole big world just beyond their doorstep. Go see it. Your home, your computer, and your work will be waiting for you right where you left it. And who knows? You might even find work a little easier to crack into upon your return.

Seriously, you all need to head back into the office; I can see how this is making you all nuts. But in case we’re all still stuck, sans office, for a little while longer, you can start by finessing these five unbreakable rules for working at home. For your sake. For mine. For everybody’s. You can thank me later.

Will Leitch

 

By: Will Leitch

Source: Americans Need to Go Back to the Office | Index

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For anyone that works, commuting might just be the worst part of the day. So with WFH and less time commuting, could we see a drastic change in the cities we live in? #WFH #FutureOfWork #BloombergQuicktake ——– Like this video? Subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/Bloomberg?sub_… Become a Quicktake Member for exclusive perks: http://www.youtube.com/bloomberg/join QuickTake Originals is Bloomberg’s official premium video channel. We bring you insights and analysis from business, science, and technology experts who are shaping our future. We’re home to Hello World, Giant Leap, Storylines, and the series powering CityLab, Bloomberg Businessweek, Bloomberg Green, and much more.
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Is Mass Remote Working Really The Way Forward?

Is Mass Remote Working Really the Way Forward?

Research from The International Workplace Group’s 2019 Workplace Survey showed how over half of us globally were already working outside of a main office HQ some of the time. And even in a pre-pandemic world, 75 percent of employees noted remote working as “the new normal.”

That new normal arrived en masse for a lot of us just a few months later.

There seems to be a mixed reaction from organizations as to whether remote working at the scale we currently see will last. Tech firms and even some major banks have come out publically to say they’ll be cutting office space and moving to a “central hub” approach, similar to a WeWork set-up.

Yet recent well-publicized comments from the likes of Goldman Sachs are adamant that their employees will be returning, with boss David Solomon stating: “I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this (remote working) is not ideal for us. And it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible.”

The traditional arguments in favor of organizations allowing remote working were based on well being, a better work/life balance, attracting more candidates and even seeing better productivity and engagement.

But comments from the likes of Solomon deviate from the body of research that had suggested working from home was a solution to so many modern-day work issues — and highlights some of the potential pitfalls.

And there could be new research that supports his viewpoint too, especially when it comes to the holy grail for people managers: engagement.

But first, let’s take a whistle-stop tour of some research showing remote working as highly beneficial for people and organizations alike and should feature more into the future.

Remote working is beneficial for engagement and productivity.

Turning to various studies by Gallup, a pretty picture is painted about the positive outcomes associated with remote working. And it predominantly comes down to engagement.

Highly-engaged workplaces, Gallup reports, can see 41 percent lower absenteeism and 21 percent higher profitability. How this links to remote working is that engagement reportedly peaks when workers spend 60 percent to 80 percent of their time working remotely, seemingly confirming that a mix of in-office contact time and remote-work flexibility, weighted toward the latter, can stimulate better performance and outcomes.

Outside of performance gains, offering flexible working can attract more candidates too — or at help to retain ones currently employed. This survey released in 2018 by Flex jobs found that 78 percent of millennials would be more loyal to an employer if they had flexible work options, whilst seven in 10 also said they’ve left a job or have considered leaving a job because it lacked flexible working arrangements.

Of course, flexible working covers a range of areas from flex-time to picking shifts, but remote working plays a major part.

But are remote workers really more engaged than their office-based counterparts?

Perhaps not.

Remote working can be damaging.

According to Dan Schawbel’s Harvard Business Review article analyzing findings from a 2018 Virgin Pulse study, it turns out remote workers may not be more engaged after all. They may even be more likely to quit.

The study showed how two-thirds of the 2,000 predominantly-remote employees they quizzed weren’t engaged and only 5 percent said they see themselves working at their company for an entire career. That compares to just one in three who don’t work remotely.

Schawbel argues that these results aren’t surprising, citing that humans crave at least some face-to-face interaction in order to feel bonded to teammates.

I couldn’t disagree with that, and the majority of straw polls on LinkedIn I’ve seen over the last year do indicate that most of us would like some balance between remote and office-based work. But what this research doesn’t touch on is the generational divide in remote working, especially pre covid, and how that may skew results.

As the survey from FlexJobs noted above reported, it’s younger workers who typically crave flexibility, and numerous studies have shown how millennials and Gen Z tend to be less loyal to a single employer.

McKinsey Global Institute’s timely analysis of what’s next for remote work published in November last year suggests that “hybrid models of remote work are likely to persist in the wake of the pandemic, mostly for a highly educated, well-paid minority of the workforce.”

Will remote working at scale last? 

In short, yes, but not at the current scale. As McKinsey’s report perfectly summarized:

The virus has broken through cultural and technological barriers that prevented remote work in the past, setting in motion a structural shift in where work takes place, at least for some people.

Key here is “for some people.” I do think that for many of us, being forced to work from home has opened eyes to a new way of living, of integrating work life with home life, and the time, well being and cost benefits that arise.

But it’s not for everyone. Before Covid, people working remotely really wanted to be remote workers. It was a perk they sought out. Because of this, it’s valued more, appreciated more and also, the remote worker by choice likely recognizes in themselves that they have a personality and way of working that does lean towards higher productivity and engagement outside of an office.

Post-Covid, there are now hundreds of thousands of people now working remotely, but not by choice. And that’s the main difference. The right home setup wasn’t there to begin with. They may have a personality that thrives more on social interaction and find their engagement is supported by the hub of an office and proximity to co-workers.

Interesting anecdotal evidence for this perspective was on a recent LBC London phone-in where long-term work-from-homers were lamenting the permanence of their loved ones in their home offices as they too were sent home for the pandemic.

By: Arthur Wilson / Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Source: Is Mass Remote Working Really the Way Forward?

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The Four Hidden Dangers Of Long-Term Remote Work (That Almost Nobody’s Talking About Yet)

Working from home during lockdown

OK, so we’ve got this remote work thing down pat, right? Technically, yes. We’re Zoom or Microsoft Teams wizards, we’re used to (and actually good at) dealing with transmission delays and frozen screens, and we’re adjusting to time zone warp: being in New Jersey but on a call at 11:30 PM with your late-working California team. They’re all eating take-out dinners during the call (cute) and all you’d like to do is get to sleep because you have a 5:30 AM call with London tomorrow – and you’re one of the presenters, no less.

But that’s life these days and it’s all cool, right? Not so fast.

The part of the iceberg we can see

In this writer’s judgment, discussions about the pros and cons of remote work have lacked depth, and have been based, mostly, on our knee-jerk reactions to the events and developments of a mere eleven months. Consequently, we’ve also given short shrift to the long view. We’ve done well, all in all, playing the cards we were dealt, but this is a longer game. Discussions about technology and scheduling, although compelling, are surface issues; they’re the 10 percent of the iceberg we can see.

How we solve problems

Business is one gigantic, never-ending experiment in solving problems or – for a more positive spin – seizing opportunities. They’re one and the same, as problems are nothing more than opportunities poorly dressed. How, though, do we actually solve problems?

According to extensive structured research projects by University of Illinois at Chicago’s Associate Professor Emeritus of Managerial Studies Dr. Robert Cooke, a renowned expert in organizational culture and CEO of Chicago-based Human Synergistics International, virtual teams do not perform as well as face-to-face teams in solving problems.

Cooke explains that we use two processes: the rational and the interpersonal. Although we saw “heroic problem solving early in the pandemic,” as Cooke observed, virtuality “is not an automatic solution to either rational or interpersonal problem solving.” Data indicated that when it comes to depending on remote work, some groups just got it and some just didn’t, making adaptability an issue.

Cooke’s model of organizational culture reveals three types of behavior, whether individual, team, or organization: aggressive/defensive (marked by internal competitiveness, power grabbing, and opposition), passive/defensive (including avoidance, need for approval, and conventional thinking), and constructive (achievement orientation, encouragement, and affiliation). Among other observations, the distance of virtuality makes it easier to extend the two non-constructive cultures’ behavioral norms.

In short, says Cooke, “We’re seeing the electronic disintegration of the interpersonal process.” There’s danger number one.

What makes for a good job? Design!

Just as there’s a world of difference between the instructional design of in-person or distance learning, there is as great a difference in designing on-site or virtual jobs. We’ve long since learned that we can’t take a traditional classroom course (or degree, for that matter), plop it on a server, and expect the same result. Same challenge with designing jobs.

Job design considers technical and organizational requirements as well as social and personal requirements of the worker. Dr. Cooke referred to Hackman and Oldham’s job characteristic theory (1976) stating that work should engender three critical psychological states in individuals: deriving meaning, feeling responsibility for outcomes, and understanding the results of their work.

As a result, the theory proposes, employees’ intrinsic motivation will be enhanced, job satisfaction will grow, quality of work will improve, and turnover will fall. This is not to say that successful job design is possible only in in-person settings. It does, though, point forcefully to the difference in design and the perils of not dealing with that difference.

There’s danger number two.

Mental and physical health issues

           Two mental health counselors and one medical doctor (all of whom requested anonymity due to sensitive, private nature of their work) agree that long-term virtual work could have multiple deleterious health effects on anyone. Apparently, says one, “We’re already seeing too much of it to ignore.”

On the mental health side, feelings of isolation lead to depression. Being alone day after day tends to intensify the feeling of aloneness, while in a constructive in-person environment, there could well be a support structure in place. Stigma-free organizations could decide to create a mental health counselor position, perhaps.

Regarding physical health, problems like eye strain (eight, ten hours a day on the screen), poor posture while sitting too long, inactivity, and proximity to the refrigerator and snack drawer (really!) are more than theoretical threats.

There’s danger number three.

Stop thinking? Or stop and think?

Chris Brune, retired knowledge manager and business researcher, offers this observation: “When something becomes possible, it becomes expected.”

And there’s danger number four.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

With 50 years’ experience in diversified international business, I am a well-established, prolific journalist, having authored nearly 2,000 articles on job market, workplace, and leadership issues since 2003. I founded my executive career coaching practice, Amdur Coaching and Advisory Group in 1997, serving thousands of individual and corporate clients across 25 industries in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. I have worked for two global office electronics giants, held a directorship in a French-led global affiliate network, and began two start-ups. At Fairleigh Dickinson University I taught leadership courses (MBA, MAS) for 15 years, was Executive-in-Residence in the Center for Healthcare Management Studies, and co-founded the Institute for Life Sciences Leadership.

Source: The Four Hidden Dangers Of Long-Term Remote Work (That Almost Nobody’s Talking About Yet)

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For anyone that works, commuting might just be the worst part of the day. So with WFH and less time commuting, could we see a drastic change in the cities we live in? #WFH #FutureOfWork #BloombergQuicktake ——– Like this video? Subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/Bloomberg?sub_…
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