Babies, Binge Clubs and “Meeting Equality”: Which Remote Work Changes Are Most Likely to Stick?

Karen Niovitch Davis  Follow

The COVID-19 crisis will forever alter the way we work. Some of the changes are obvious – Zoom is now a household name and even the most conservative of companies will have a hard time banning remote work ever again. Other changes are less immediately apparent, but are likely to have an even bigger impact. 

Humanizing Leadership – COVID-19 has leveled the playing field between managers and junior employees in a way that we have never seen before. Even the CEO suddenly seems different when their child wanders on to a video call making funny faces. This has resulted in what we call “meeting equality.” By being in the same space as everyone else, including senior leadership, employees feel more empowered to speak up and share their feedback and ideas, resulting in a more diverse set of viewpoints reaching the C-suite. 

A Peek Behind the Curtain – Along those same lines, the crisis has helped people understand each other better. Everyone is experiencing different emotional challenges. Many who are living by themselves are feeling lonely, and many with children are feeling like they can’t do everything, as they are expected to both work and homeschool. Creating ways for these people to spend time together is helpful so they can share ideas, forge new bonds with co-workers they may not have known before and see that they aren’t really alone. This can involve creating video calls just for parents of young children, or starting an online “binge club,” the Netflix version of a book club. 

Increasing Transparency – For the first two weeks of remote work, the focus was on how to do it – getting the technology right, wondering what to wear on video calls and accessing information. Now, people are wondering what all of this means for their jobs over the long term. Business leaders are responding to this anxiety by being more open than ever before. By hosting regular forums to discuss the state of the business – both the challenges and how people can be part of the solution – leaders can help keep their employees motivated during a difficult time. As more businesses start these sessions, it’s hard to imagine them ever ending. 

The New Meaning of “Face Time” – How many of us have checked social media or sent text messages or emails during a conference call? Video calls have put an end to that, requiring people to be present in a way that didn’t always happened before. Seeing people and observing their body language and expressions has changed expectations for everyone. Conference calls now seem like something out of the Stone Age. This shift to video will lead to a more connected remote workforce, more flexibility and possibly a better work-life balance, as people wonder whether the time and expense of all those business trips are really necessary.  

Building New Relationships – It may seem counterintuitive, but being away from the office can actually provide a jump start on forging new connections. Encourage employees to take the time they’re not spending commuting or traveling to meetings and reach out to Zoom with someone new. This is especially helpful to do with people who recently joined your company and are likely feeling lost. This simple gesture will positively impact their connection to their colleagues and to the firm, resulting in increased morale and retention.

This piece originally appeared in CommPro.Biz

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