One of the biggest issues facing organizations in the new era of work from home is a loss of socialization and sense of community among newly remote employees.
For many people, gone are the days of being able to easily build bonds with coworkers through conversation in the workplace, when out to lunch, or through participation in clubs or after-work social activities. A June survey of workers
in Canada, for example, found that the biggest issue that remote workers face is isolation.
Isolation for home workers is about more than just the missing social interactions with co-workers. Remote workers often struggle with obtaining the right information to do their jobs, and they may not feel like they are part of the team, able to engage with co-workers on projects, ideation sessions, and other interactive activities. They may not believe that their work is noticed, or that they have a say in how decisions are analyzed and made. This challenge is especially acute for younger and newly hired individuals who want to establish themselves as valuable team contributors.
The challenge for business, HR, and IT leaders is how to minimize this feeling of isolation, and ensure that remote work doesn’t lead to declines in productivity. Fortunately, collaboration applications can help.
For most companies, the first step in combatting isolation has been embracing video conferencing for meetings and even 1:1 engagement. Since the pandemic, Nemertes’ research shows that more than 91% of companies have adopted video conferencing, and for almost 30% of companies, all meetings now use video. Video improves the ability of virtual workers to engage with one another on a level that is far more intimate than a plain old conference call. In addition, almost 60% of organizations are using their video meeting applications for non-work-related activities such as wellness classes, happy hours, game nights, and other social interactions.
Beyond video, most companies have embraced team collaboration platforms that provide a contextual, messaging-based means of engagement, eliminating the formality of email and its lack of context. Team collaboration apps allow employees to quickly ping one another to get questions answered, to check in with each other, or to discuss topics in the context of projects or team activities. Most team apps now enable escalation of chats to video calls, as well.
Another piece of the “combating isolation” puzzle are enterprise social platforms designed to enable organizational-wide knowledge sharing and management. These applications go beyond team-focused messaging to allow workers to find expertise, share ideas, or ask questions on a company-wide basis. For example, a product manager in one business unit may participate in a project management discussion forum or interest group with other project managers throughout the organization. Social platforms often support engagement for other purposes, such as HR, tech support, or even non-work-related activities such as recipe exchanges.
Finally, companies are increasingly investing in tools that enable a higher level of distributed engagement. Such tools, which include virtual whiteboard applications and devices, support ideation, content co-creation, and sharing across geographies and time zones, adding yet another means of remote worker engagement.
Business leaders must ensure that their collaboration strategy is optimized in this new normal of work from home by embracing tools that foster engagement and reduce the feeling of isolation. Video conferencing and team collaboration are now baseline technologies. Consider enterprise social platforms and ideation tools as additional means to enable a high level of virtual worker engagement.