Culture, Collaboration and Communication in the Remote Working Environment
Lessons learned from our session with Fringe Legal Edge and Litera TV
Most businesses have adapted to remote working, made offices at home and found a way to work as effectively as they can through the pandemic at hand. Whilst many businesses are working to return to the office in some way, it’s become clear that what once seemed temporary, could be the ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future.
Remote work, at least on a part time basis, is here to stay.
Yet, whilst we can adapt workflows, adopt new tools and move our office-based activities into the home, how can we ensure our employees feel connected to their peers, and the business as a whole? And how does remote working affect our ability to collaborate? It was these questions and more that our Managing Director, Dave Wilson, explored in partnership with Abhijat Saraswat as part of our Fringe Legal Edge session on Litera TV.
What are some of the potential impacts of remote working?
With work and home intermingled in the same environment, it can be hard to stay motivated and energised in your daily tasks. With the pandemic added to the mix, it’s easy to see how many individuals could find themselves struggling to find the motivation needed to work as normal through uncertain times.
Video Conferencing Fatigue
Many businesses have been working from home for around six months now, relying on video conferencing tools for the majority of their internal communications. But, being visible on screen for much of the day and maintaining conversations virtually can be draining.
As Ab outlined: “I think there was a period where people adjusted, then plateaued and became drained again. It is exhausting being on video calls for much of the day.”
With such a plethora of virtual meeting tools available, many individuals have found that their calendars have become overloaded with meetings. As Ab highlighted: “the amount of work may not have changed, but I think the amount of meetings has certainly increased across the board for most individuals.”
This can impact productivity as with an influx of discussions, it can be difficult to find time to focus on tasks. Also, without breaks between meetings, attendees may miss out on the opportunity to fully digest discussions and reflect on ideas, which could lead to poor work quality.
So, how can leaders work to sustain collaborative cultures in the Remote Working Environment?
1. By actively listening to those around them
For many individuals, what they miss most about the office is the chance to chat with colleagues. This absence could be felt by both employees and customers, who may be missing both personal contact and the opportunity to share experiences with others.
Therefore, it’s important to interact with both employees and customers on a regular basis and provide them with a space in which they can talk about whatever they need to – be it business, or personal matters.
As Dave commented: “we had catch-up chats and virtual coffee calls with both staff and clients, to touch base and ask what was going on with the individual, and what they were experiencing – not just from a business perspective. The situation at hand affected everyone differently depending on their situation and depending on where they lived.”
2. By scheduling regular breaks
To overcome the meeting overload that many people have experienced the pandemic, it’s important to make sure moments of rest and reflection are included in our daily routines.
One potential way to overcome this is to simply schedule shorter meetings with agendas that keep attendees focused, so that appointments are bookended with space to slow down. As Ab outlined: “internally, at Litera, we have started redesigning meetings, changing them from an hour to fifty minutes, and from half an hour to twenty minutes. So, everyone frees up ten minutes in-between meetings, whether it is just for a breather, a bathroom break or something else. It's important to have that, because even in an office environment, you have that break to walk from one room to the next.”
3. By tailoring communications
With some individuals returning to the office, and some remaining at home, it’s important to consider the context of the communications we share, and how our messages are received. What works for one group may not work for another, and so it’s key that communications are tailored to specific audiences, by using a range of communication methods, such as instant messaging, video conferences and traditional phone calls.
As Dave added, “you have to think about the individuals that you're talking to and what they might be going through in those meetings or from home, and then try and tailor your communications towards how they want to see them.”
Even within teams, there may be a range of different communication preferences, and by considering what your audience prefers, not just what their environment allows, you’ll find that your messages are received more effectively.