Small communication points between your peers and employees are the main point of human connection. These feelings of understanding and hearing each other can be tough when working remotely, and we are starting to see the effects it has. In this article I discuss how going back to the office can help you revitalise these connections.
What is human connection?
Human connection, or alternatively called social connection, is the experience of feeling connected to others. The feeling of being heard and being understood by others is one of the most rewarding things in life. We were used to getting these feelings at the workplace regularly, even though we might not have noticed them so much before the pandemic began.
These touch points and moments have become rare as the world works remotely now, and the current digital channels and ways of working unfortunately do not support these natural “bumps” and open, low-threshold communication.
We are missing the physical connections
While remote work has quite a few benefits, like less soul-crushing commutes for employees, and money savings for the companies as they can reduce their office spaces, it has its downsides as well.
Research shows that even before the current pandemic began 20% of the remote working population felt lonely in their work. To cope with that, we are using methods like leaving our TV on or listening to podcasts to cure the feeling of loneliness. This especially applies if there is no family around.
And even though we are able to make more connections by pure quantity through a variety of technology, it just doesn’t feel the same to communicate with people through screens, as the quality of the communication is not the same as in in-person communication. There are several factors, such as connection quality and bad audio that make communication through screens a difficult task.
These smaller little details start to add up and bring us to think about alternatives. The cure might be closer than you think.
Workplace can work as a driver
Going back to work and back to your office can help you re-vitalize your connections and social life. As Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella said, there is “no way that digital technology should be a substitute for human connection”. We feel like this too, and we have come to appreciate our small chats by the coffee machine more than we would have ever imagined.
These smaller moments of human connection between people helps to avoid disconnecting from your peers and feeling loneliness in your work.
According to JLL, there are four types of people when it comes to hybrid working in the future, depending on how much you can and want to work from the office. Whether your employees are “traditional office workers” or “free spirits”, there is a definite change in the working culture coming up to adjust to all these different personalities, as we shift back to workplaces.
Change in working culture
Hybrid working and flexible work schedules, when possible, are good ways to start changing your work culture from the purely remote working mode you might currently be in. These help all your employees to try and find their own preferred combination of working at the office and working from home.
Consider that enabling human connection at the office should not just be about sitting down in meetings taking hours and hours, as they could be done on Teams, but human connection is best built when doing something else together. You can think of extracurricular type of activities at your workplace that enable people to get to know each other again. This is especially important in the beginning so you can get most out of the re-connection phase.
Communication is key
Most of us have upgraded our home offices during the pandemic and you might need to create some extra motivation to get some of them to leave the comfort of their home and come back to work at the office. Mentorships, partnerships, coaching at the workplace should be more in focus so your employees have better reasons to go to the office, as opposed to their home office comfort.
Enabling easy communication in the office helps people return to it, as that is what people are missing. The low-threshold communication and sparring with your peers face-to-face lack the misinterpreted cues of digital communications, which also leads us back to physical communication and therefore to the office.
When you return back to work, depending on your worker profile and working preferences, you start to once again appreciate that human connection and open communication are a big part of our working lives, and something that we might have overlooked in the past. We didn’t know that we were missing it and when we go back to the office, it is important to enable your workers to get reconnected.
When returning to the office, some issues might come up. Be prepared and read our list of common workplace issues to avoid repeating them: