Human beings are social animals. We need contact with one another. Too much time in isolation – even for the most introverted amongst us – creates feelings of anxiety and loneliness.
According to the rules of the ‘new normal’, video calls and social media can bridge the gulf and help us feel connected to one another.
This is why I have been busily launching virtual meet-ups and online initiatives – to help my BigChange colleagues feel like part of one big team and maintain our sense of camaraderie.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t work.
Zoom. Teams. Hangouts. House Party. RingCentral. Whatever platform you choose, it is still no substitute for face-to-face conversation and real-world connection.
In fact, too many of these virtual events can add to the general stress and feeling of isolation. People either feel obliged to take part or guilty for choosing not to attend.
I have come to this realisation after receiving some feedback from the BigChange team. Some people feel that I have created far too many online events, and that these meet-ups are eating into their valuable free time.
…In hindsight, maybe introducing yet another virtual quiz was a bad idea? Especially when the whole world is regularly “pub quizzing” with family and friends already.
I’m learning all the time and, like many other leaders, trying my best to work out how to keep motivating and engaging my colleagues, both those currently working and those who have been temporarily furloughed. This is all new to me too. In these uncertain times, there are no straightforward answers. I get it wrong sometimes.
I want to apologise to anyone in my team at BigChange who feels bombarded by these new online initiatives. I know that some of you feel overwhelmed or just exhausted by the expectation to attend. I had the best intentions but I have made mistakes. I promise to do better in future.
We have established a steering committee, which is made up of representatives from every team in the business. From now on, before I launch a new online scheme to boost engagement, I will run all ideas past this sounding board and make sure that it is genuinely useful and that there will be demand for it.
I am also rethinking my plan for a totally virtual future. This pandemic has proven to me that BigChange doesn’t need a real-world office; we are just as effective working remotely. We have reduced our carbon dioxide emissions as a result of lockdown, becoming a greener and more sustainable business as a result.
But I’ve come to understand that while people don’t need to work side-by-side, they really like to.
When this crisis has passed, we will not be going back to an entirely office-based operation. But I will rotate teams in and out of the office so that a percentage of my colleagues are in the building at any one time. Teams need to come together to collaborate, bond – and just have a bit of fun too. That spirit ultimately drives organisations forward.
Forget the ‘new norm’ of virtual businesses and remote working. I’m embracing a blend of the best elements from the modern world of work and the traditional approach. From now on, it’s all about the ‘new old’.