A recent survey* found that employees increasingly depend on technology to communicate with colleagues. The reason why is clear: the team no longer sits in one place. Remote working is the new normal and freelancers and agencies based in different locations are now being integrated into core teams. This is leading to increasing workplace isolation but at the same time we are working more productively. Is this the price we pay?
On one level, yes. Home working gives employees the chance to concentrate on projects away from the daily business and meetings in the office and external freelancers and agencies bring fresh ideas and flexibility to the rigid corporation. But the tradeoffs are clear. In his book “Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation,” Dan Schawbel found that remote workers are more likely to quit because of loneliness as well as low engagement. The growth of coworking spaces is one clear indication that people want a human connection in their professional life.
What to do? Despite being largely responsible for the problem, the digital world is doing much to help us solve it. You can’t move for new and exciting collaboration software (Slack anyone?). Video conferences are commonplace and allow us to both hear and see our remote teams. But these solutions will never replace face-to-face interactions in our industry. Often an informal coffee or lunch with a colleague will spark a brilliant idea which an email chain could never generate. We need these personal relationships to help bounce ideas off one another, brainstorm and iterate.
We work in an industry which relies on building personal relationships with the consumer. The same should apply to our relationships with colleagues too.