SOCIAL DISTANCING SHOULDN’T RISK YOUR TEAM’S CULTURE

December 13, 2021

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Social distancing is going to temporarily change the way we work, socialize and travel.

In time, we all expect the crisis will pass… and schools, stores, restaurants, hotels, airports will all again be filled.  And the stock markets will recover with newly instilled confidence.

But I don’t believe the way we work will go back to the way it was. Remote working was a growing trend, and social distancing is only going to accelerate the process.

As a business leader, I’ve thought a lot about remote working for years now. I strongly believe in the power of face-to-face interactions to help build company culture and strong personal relationships. I also believe that the power and convenience of technology tools makes working remotely much more seamless than ever before, and is something we all like to take advantage of at least sometimes.

Doing more work remotely will change the way many work, but it doesn’t necessarily risk maintaining a strong company culture. In fact, if handled well it can foster a stronger culture.

For a long time, mainstream American business culture has stuck with tradition. Workers are expected to be in the office Monday to Friday, 8 to 6. People show their commitment to work by putting in the hours, with a strong emphasis on face time and meetings for strengthening teams.

To me, this all seems antiquated. I really believe in the value of face-to-face dealings, and I’m often quick to hop on a plane for a meeting that I could have done by phone. But this approach can, and is, way overblown when it comes to running a team. Where face-to-face meetings are great for establishing new relationships or closing deals, they’re really not needed for every part of daily operations.

The tech tools now available for remote working are pretty amazing. We have high quality video chat on our phones, everywhere. Cloud-based productivity software lets us collaborate on documents, financial models, presentation decks, etc., in real time. There’s a big opportunity here for companies to refocus more on outputs (high quality work) and less on inputs (hours at the office).

I think this is going to be really good for work culture. People love flexibility. Giving professionals  the freedom to set their own schedules means that errands like doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and picking up the kids suddenly becomes a lot easier. Stress goes down, output goes up.

Flexible work arrangements give people greater freedom to optimize their own lives. The sense of agency over life and career is something we should not underestimate. It’s taken too long for companies to adapt their cultures to a new digital age. I hope more business leaders embrace this change as a positive one, and adapt accordingly.

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