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How much will remote working affect office culture?

Thursday May 28 2020
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This pandemic has changed the way we work and it is clear that the future will, as a result, accommodate greater work flexibility. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By FRED GITUKU

Q: Last week, our general manager hinted that we may have to continue working from home even after the Covid-19 pandemic is brought under control. I am the Human Resources Business Partner at my organisation, and many employees are telling me that they greatly miss having face-to-face interactions with their colleagues. Is it possible for staff members to abide by the office culture while working remotely?

Research shows that being part of a team can provide a sense of belonging and kinship that contributes to positive employee experience.

The tear-jerking farewell messages that colleagues who are about to leave an organisation often receive is testament to the fact that strong social bonds among colleagues can be formed over time.

There are many benefits of working from home, among them the reduction of operating costs, time saved from daily work commute and the personal convenience of working flexibly.

Some employees believe that working from home makes them more creative and productive, but this arrangement has its drawbacks too.

Extended periods of working without proper ergonomics could introduce health risks, and this can be exacerbated by the sedentary lifestyle that is coincident with pandemic-related restrictions on movement.

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Working exclusively from home may also suffocate the benefits that one-on-one interactions bring to an organisation, including the potential to nurture teamwork and a conducive social climate for business.

TEAMWORK

As we poignantly learn from sports, the performance of a team is often less dependent on the sum of its members’ individual competencies than it is on the quality of its collaboration.

Several factors, including leadership and the communal rapport created through informal interactions, can influence how well a team works together.

While the effectiveness of virtual interactions have come a long way in terms of facilitating remote working and bonding among colleagues, certain social elements of teamwork cannot thrive through exclusive digital contact.

The genetic material of camaraderie is more likely to emerge from sharing bites at the cafeteria than it would from trading bytes across screens in separate locations.

This pandemic has changed the way we work and it is clear that the future will, as a result, accommodate greater work flexibility.

In addition to the increasing need for reliability and security of digital platforms that facilitate work, the real value of trust has become apparent and this should inform the way supervisors manage their teams virtually.

The means of concurrently achieving optimal organisational performance and positive employee experience is neither in working exclusively from home nor at the office but in finding the right balance based on the nature of work involved, leadership preferences and employee discretion.

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