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Refreshing your digital work culture

  • Posted on August 6, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

By now, your workforce has fallen into a more comfortable schedule working from home and has come to grips with the prospect of doing so for some time. Hopefully, the novelty and initial discomfort of videoconferencing through services such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom has worn off and is becoming a standard and natural practice in conducting business, both inside and out of your organization. 

Despite business continuity being maintained, there are concerns I’ve been hearing echoed across organizations.

Innovation: The old phrase “innovate or die” is starting to inch back into the heads of many managers, and for most of their virtual workforce, many of the usual conduits for iterating are on hiatus. Stanford economist, Nicholas Bloom, is very worried about long-term productivity and innovation currently.  In an interview with Stephen Dubner on his Freakonomics podcast, Bloom mentions the importance of the informal, yet still work-related water-cooler & lunchtime talk. Without those additional sounding boards that happen organically, Bloom worries that 5-10 years from now we could see a lowering in long-run growth because of the hit to innovation now.

Employee engagement: There isn't a one-size-fits all solution to engaging your people and for many, finding a work/life balance right now is tough. Many employees are at different life-stages, each looking for different methods and quantities to engage back with their team or organization. An internal survey at Avanade found that employees who live alone crave ways to not feel like they're on an island and want to stay connected, while those with families struggle to find the balance between workload, 'extracurricular' work activities, and being present at home.With schools still questioning re-opening strategies, I can only imagine this becoming more difficult for many.
 
So how do you maintain employee engagement and continue evolving a digital culture? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Plan for your reopening - let your workforce drive who goes back to the office first. Those who crave getting a sense of normalcy or interaction (safely) with co-workers will be chomping at the bit, and you'll most likely see a bit of a spike in productivity and morale that carries back to those who still wish to stay 100% virtual. Studies have found that just one day a week is plenty to keep up those innovative conversations, so plan accordingly, stagger the workforce, and be certain you're following national and local guidelines.

  2. Set the video chat tone - we've all wondered who is really paying attention on a call. I could have sworn I heard someone mowing the lawn not too long ago. But when does dictating "you must be on video" start to feel like you might be invading privacy? And remember, if you're wondering how engaged your team is on the call, there are certainly those wondering if you, yourself are multi-tasking and mailing it in. Instead of command and control, try setting the tone by always keeping your camera on, especially for your team check-ins. You'll be surprised how many of your team will follow-suit and do the same and your meetings quickly becoming more engaging. Just remember that the occasional dog bark, package delivery, or unexpected kid interrupting is inevitable.

  3. Rethink your virtual happy hours - if you are using virtual happy hours to try and stay connected, rethink some ways you can switch it up, keep people engaged, and also fill some of those innovation or engagement gaps that are starting to show.

  4. Open innovation up to the whole organization - while some of the best innovations might come from the casual drinks while debriefing a client meeting or conference, there are still ways to get some innovative ideas that feel somewhat organic. Consider opening up a Teams chat forum or SharePoint site that concentrates on innovation and crowdsourcing both problems and solutions. Some organizations that may have sent a select few to some type of Hack Week or Innovate Festival in the past, are now making them virtual and inviting anyone with a passion to join.  

Learn more about how you can enable remote working rapidly within your business environment.

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