TECH TALK: Bill Magee says attention to small matters can make workers feel less isolated
As many businesses try to make up for time and revenue lost during the year-long pandemic, little attention is being paid to individual burnout in what is being termed the new world of work. It can have a harmful knock-on effect on an entire organisation and market research company Forrester has published a paper warning that optimising a “hybrid” workforce requires careful attention.
Employees do not always have the right tech, or skills, to manage what often represents an abrupt change to their working lives. It represents a big challenge for busy business leaders.
There’s real market concern over how remote working impacts on the ability of otherwise agile teams to fully collaborate and engage with all stakeholders. Stanford graduate business school economist Nicholas Bloom claims the hybrid work environment represents a “fractured march” back to the office.
Anecdotal accounts increasingly point to a faultline in working-from-home and that, unlike the office where burnout symptoms might more readily be spotted, remote working carries with it a risk of isolation.
At home an individual boots up the PC for the morning online conference call (more likely the computer has been left on overnight, in an “always on” work culture). Giving every indication of “business as usual” despite, as World Health Organisation points out, concealing what can be chronic work-related stress.
A Microsoft study on the future of work reveals 70% of employees surveyed are generally in favour of remote working. Tellingly, almost identical numbers seek more “in-person” time with their teams when operating remotely.
Technology is, of course, inextricably-linked towards commercial success, but the sector doesn’t always help itself. The tech giants are already bombarding us with ready-made post-virus solutions, the latest of which is pushing the wonders of 6G, even though Intel concedes that 5G is “nascent”, with most folks still on fourth generation mobile networks.
They’re desperate to make up for billions in revenues lost during the year-long pandemic and, unfortunately, such impatience extends to employee working conditions. It’s somewhat ironic that the very companies powering the remote work revolution apparently expect their own staff, by-and-large, to return to physical offices. But within a hybrid environment when it suits.
Such impatience also shows itself in what observers in the States are labelling “smackdown season” of running court battles. Google v Oracle one week, Apple v Facebook the next, and Amazon v its own workforce. To sum up – it’s all commercial pressure, pressure, pressure!!!
Forbes highlights a timely book just published “Beating Burnout at Work : Why Teams Hold the Secret to Well-Being & Resilience,” by senior academic Paula Davis (Wharton School Press – Kindle edition). It carries the message that treating the symptoms is a start but, rather, it should be about fixing the problem by addressing underlying issues.
In online conference calls and similar meetings, team leaders should be more proactive, by consistently deploying what the author calls “TNTs”, ie. tiny noticeable things, like saying “Thank You”, offering feedback, and more encouragement to team members, telling them “You Matter”; using cues such as calling someone by their name; making eye contact; giving colleagues your full attention. All sound rather old fashioned?
Try it out at your next scheduled Teams virtual get-together.
I would go one step further: just chew the fat and catch up with each other’s lives. Rather than getting straight down to business, as if there’s no tomorrow.