While remote work has been a relatively new option for many businesses currently using it in their operations, it has already shown considerable benefits. Having said that, it would be incongruous of us if we didn’t also acknowledge one glaring issue that remote work has helped to foster: a sense of disconnect in many of those making use of it.
Let’s consider this disconnect, and what might be done as a leader to help reconnect any employees who have these feelings.
How Has Remote Work Divided Us?
There is a phenomenon in human nature that is frequently seen in business operations, whether they are carried out remotely or in-person. Human beings are instinctively tribal creatures, so we tend to gravitate toward those with whom we share space.
This happens a lot within hobbies or belief systems, but one place that it has been seen a lot in recent months is within workplace departments.
Microsoft Provides a Perfect Example of This
A study, published in Nature Human Behavior, analyzed how 61,000 Microsoft employees would communicate with each other from December of 2019 until June 2020—collecting data from before and after the company’s transition to fully remote work on March 5, 2020. Before this point, about 18 percent of the company’s staff operated remotely.
By aggregating the anonymous data collected from the instant messages, emails, calls, meetings, and the total number of hours worked each week, the study revealed a key pattern. While more time was spent communicating by teams, these communications were primarily within the different teams at the company. On average, 25 percent less time was spent on communications across department lines. Remote work also saw fewer people collaborating with new contacts in the organization.
You may have observed similar trends occurring in your own organization during remote work.
What Can Be Done About Departmental Silos?
There are a few different strategies that can be used to prevent your different departments from eschewing communications with one another.
Keep Remote Workers Connected
When someone is working remotely, feelings of isolation and disconnect are all too easy to develop. Take the initiative to reach out and maintain their connection to the group as a whole, not just their department or role.
Involve More People
Another effective way to help stave off remote isolation is by contextualizing an employee’s work on an organization-wide scale. Give each employee a view of their spot in the overall workforce so they can see how their contributions impact everyone else.
Push For Outreach
Finally, it is important that your team members have the freedom to have the off-topic conversations that lead to improved teamwork. Encourage your employees to talk about shared interests throughout the workday (emphasizing the importance of moderation, of course) and set aside some time for some casual teambuilding. What was once effortless in the office will take some effort with remote team members.
We can help by outfitting your team with the communication and collaboration tools they’ll need for both work purposes and interpersonal development. Find out more about what we can offer you by calling (646) 741-1166.