If the COVID-19 lockdown has done anything, it’s served as a reminder of how hyper-connected life has become in the 21st Century. This fact really serves to show how much we take for granted the small interactions and activities that bring value to our lives.
For a good deal of people, it’s also completely upended the traditional approach to “going to work”. Over the course of a few weeks, previously office-based workforces across the country are now operating almost entirely remotely.
The question becomes a matter of “at what cost”?
Our company has been deemed essential. Given that circumstance, we’ve remained in operation throughout the entirety of the pandemic.
We are a tight-knit group. By-and-large, we all know each other’s names. Most of us know each other’s kids’ names. Working at a company with fewer than fifty employees organically creates that type of atmosphere. It’s a friendly environment that we all enjoy.
Daily interaction with our peers is something that we sometimes take for granted. We live in a world in which devices and screens have slowly stripped us of our face-to-face interactions and the pandemic seems to be fast tracking this social separation. While the potential exists to be productive, remote working deprives us of the ability to interact on a face-to-face level with our coworkers and customers.
None of us here are psychologists, but it doesn’t take one to know that there is value in professional, face-to-face human interaction. The culture of most organizations uses this interaction as a baseline metric for how it is defined. While it’s certainly possible to maintain core values and culture in a remote environment, the task of doing so becomes more difficult.
Though the “daily grind” will eventually resume, it’s becoming evident that it won’t be a return to “business as usual” as we once knew it. Sadly, some businesses are beginning to see that remote workers cut costs. If their bottom line continues to support remote employment, it’s a given that some may stick with it. What remains to be seen are the long-term effects that a lack of human interaction will have.
Will businesses see the advantages of the “human touch” with respect to mundane -yet critical- back-office processes, or will investment in automation technology take over these tasks? Will productivity supersede culture and values? Will virtual hiring and digital onboarding become the status quo, or is the face-to-face interview going to make a resurgence? Are the days of sealing a deal with a handshake gone forever?
These are just a few of the many questions which only time will answer. What is certain, though, is that the idea of “going to work” will never be the same. We will all have some adjusting to do looking forward. As a business that embraces human interaction, we hope that we’ll still be able to talk about it around the watercooler… even if the conversation happens from a safe distance.