Can technology help remote workers to be happier?
A rising number of young professionals are working remotely and preferring a nomadic lifestyle. The trend shows no sign of fading either, with the World Economic Forum calling remote working ‘one of the biggest drivers of transformation’ in the workplace. According to the Work Foundation, the trend is likely to continue too, as the research predicts that by 2020, 70% of organisations will allow their staff to work from home.
But does remote working make us happier, which leads to better engaged and more productive? According to the research so far, working from home involves significant trade-offs. On the plus side, remote workers tend to be more satisfied with their jobs; feel less time pressure, exhaustion, and stress from meetings; and experience less work-life conflict. But they also have a lower sense of inclusion and get less feedback and social support leading remote workers feeling better personally, but their work relationships seem to seriously suffer.
In this article we share three steps on how we can manage these head-on. Communicating over technology is fundamental to the experience of remote work, and how we communicate may have a big influence on our workplace relationships and how happy we feel.
1. The “us vs. them” attitude:
A recent study showed how the divisions can develop from the way the two groups communicate digitally. When teams include a mix of office and remote workers, one of the dangers is that they will become divided, creating an “us vs. them” mentality.
The remote workers wrote longer messages, with more positive expressions in them: more politeness, humour, friendly chat, tips, and nicknames. On the other hand, the “office workers” were less likely to read and write messages that weren’t strictly necessary for the task at hand, perhaps due to their challenges juggling in-person and virtual interactions. If an office worker sends an abrupt message to a remote worker, for example, it could be perceived as rude or dismissive, because there’s no smile in the hallway to supplement it.
Researchers suggest that explicit policies and a robust streamlined platform for communication could help prevent misunderstandings and conflict.
2. Big Expectations for Technology
Remote workers are detached from their office, both in space and sometimes even in time. The traditional advice is to communicate more to close that distance. But another recent research suggest otherwise, the study found that the more remote workers used instant messaging and email, the more stress they felt from interruptions, and the lower their sense of belonging and attachment to their organisation.
To solve this communication overload, the study suggested that workers should agree on expectations for technology use and availability. Such as implementing ‘‘quiet time,” - scheduled times of day when employees couldn’t interrupt each other.
3. Connection and Belonging
Numerous research studies, show that there is need for casual, informal interactions among remote workers and other employees, which can be facilitated by technology—a kind of virtual water cooler. Satisfying and informal interactions with coworkers is reported to go a long way toward remote workers feeling a greater sense of belonging and commitment to the organisation, which is essential for overall productivity and growth of a company. To address this, we need a technological alternative to ‘water-cooler’ or ‘photocopier’ time – but better targeted and channelled in specific interests and hobbies.
In all honesty, we could all use a little more mindfulness, intelligibility, and empathy at remote work. And the only way to achieve these traits is by incorporating good technology.
Interested to know more on how TEAMS robust streamlined platform can facilitate these goals and make remote working a better, happier place?