I read the other day that there has been a study that has found that while the world as we knew it was turned upside down last spring when we were hit with the pandemic, people have felt much more tired and have had a harder time coping this spring. I can really relate. I think we’re all pretty tired of the situation. Some have had an easier time of it during the pandemic and some have really struggled, but we’re all tired. Although I actually felt relief that I was forced to slow down last spring (despite the scariness of it all), now I just want it to be over.
Those of us who have jobs that can easily be done from home have been especially lucky. A lot of people have really liked the opportunity to work from home and early studies found that most people hoped they could continue to do so after the pandemic was over. However, now studies have found that people feel lonely and they miss their colleagues, which really isn’t so surprising. It doesn’t mean that working from home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It just means that too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily great. And then there’s that pandemic fatigue I mentioned.
Then yesterday I read something interesting in my local newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet. Columnist Annika Sandlund talks about how companies are calling their employees back to work at the office now the many countries are starting to lift their Covid restrictions. She cites a study conducted by Best Practice Institute that has found that while 90% of employees don’t want to go back to work in the office fulltime, 83% of managers want them too. This isn’t perhaps that surprising, reinventing how we work has after all been hardest on managers. They have had to rethink the way they manage.
This has led to a lot of improvements in work routines. Sandlund talks about how employees at Apple have found that working remotely has had a lot of advantages like spending less (or no) time commuting, having more time with family, being better for the environment and leading to better communication. Now here is where I come to my point. Sandlund found this last bit quite surprising; that communication was better when people worked remotely.
I don’t find it surprising at all. On the contrary. If you don’t have all your people gathered around you, you have to make a point of telling them what you want them to know. This has been part of the reinvention of work routines that managers and other employees have had to do. And I think it’s great.
The thing is, many seem to believe that if people physically work in the same office, information will pretty much flow automatically. I mean we see each other, we sit together in meetings, we bump into each other at the coffee machine, we strike up conversations in the hallway. That should do it, right?
People really don’t automatically get to know things by just being in close proximity to each other. If you don’t make a point of systematically spelling things out and doing so in ways that enable people to actually receive and understand the information, they really won’t know what is going on.
During my years as a consultant, one thing that almost all clients struggled with was challenges with communication. Employees didn’t feel informed even though employers felt that they shared information all the time. Apparently, many weren’t doing that great a job of it. Not until they were forced to restructure and reinvent their way of communicating when no one could come in to the office all of a sudden.
I’m pleased that communication has got better for many. Let’s keep it that way regardless of how we start working once this pandemic is over.
And let’s hope that’s soon!