Effectiveness of brainstorming: -11%
Ability to maintain social relations with colleagues: -17%
Ability to interact outside of scheduled meetings: -25%
These brief but significant figures are the result of a study conducted by WeWork on the impact of remote working (total or hybrid) on collaboration in the company.
What at first glance may seem like small percentages, in the long run can have a major impact on a company’s competitiveness, especially in fast-moving sectors.
Collaboration, whether planned (such as in meetings) or spontaneous (between office colleagues or at the coffee machine), can stimulate creativity, highlight critical issues and bring people together, thus becoming an important competitive driver.
The (physical) distance between people makes it more difficult to create inter-personal relationships within the company, undermining its efficiency from within.
On the other hand, however, we cannot forget the positive aspects of partially working remotely: less time spent travelling between home and office, higher concentration and the possibility to connect from more pleasant locations than the company headquarters.
So how can these two worlds coexist without losing productivity? Here are some useful tips.
Create a balance between synchronous and asynchronous working
The traditional HR philosophy is stuck on synchronous working, where all workers are present and available at the same time. However, asynchronous working can bring many advantages, especially when some of the workers are not physically present in the office.
For example, a person may have problems with videoconferencing every day at a certain time if he or she lives near a school or a tram stop. Or in summer he might prefer to work late in the evening because he does not have an air conditioner at home.
Flexibility allows people to feel more understood within the company, making them more attentive and proactive when working together.
Evoid leadership bias
One of the main anxieties experienced by people who work remotely is feeling under-appreciated and under-recognised by their supervisor. Often this is not just a feeling, but a problem that the manager himself has to recognise: those who work remotely must have the same opportunities as their colleagues in the office, and vice versa.
This may mean, for example, having the same discussion space during meetings or receiving the same workload.
Plan regular one-to-one check-ins between managers and employees
This is a natural continuation of the previous point: it’s essential that the team leader has a direct and constant relationship with each member of his or her team. This allows not only to check the productivity and efficiency of each individual, but also to understand criticality they’ve encauntered.
Schedule regular face-to-face meetings
At least twice a year (or even 4 times a year) it’s a good idea to have the whole team in the same place, allowing all participants to interact without distraction.
Create opportunities for informal interactions
Even a few minutes after each meeting can be valuable in improving trust between team members, especially between those in the office and those interacting on a computer screen. Asking each other how it’s going, exchanging a recipe, agreeing on a drink – every little gesture is a building block to a much bigger goal.
Avoid the static nature of “shifts”
A strong focus on the well-being of employees can also lead to a difference in the behaviour of on-site and remote employees.
A good idea, if office workstations are not enough for everyone, is ‘location flexibility’. The possibility to work in the company or from home must be distributed equally among all people, to avoid recriminations and to maintain harmony in the team.