May 29th 2020
When you’re collaborating with your team, you don’t care about files. You care about the people. So why do companies put so much effort into developing tools and systems when they should be designing for interactions and relationships?
Even before a global pandemic drove so many people out of the office and working remotely, there were dangerous trends that chipped away at our inherent social behavior. Efficiency was the driver of so many business decisions, both big and small. People’s to-do lists determined how they approached their day, and less human contact often meant a faster trip to completing the list.
But remote work isn’t going anywhere, even after we emerge from our current state, and more and more digital natives are joining the workforce. There’s no question that it’s harder to make connections with people in a remote work setup, so that means it’s more important than ever that collaboration tools strengthen our bonds in an increasingly connected world. New technologies that personalize and improve the possibilities for human connections across contexts will be the new killer apps.
Certain apps lend themselves to great interactions. Video chat has nearly all the personal touches of an in-person conversation. You can pick up subtle cues from body language and even the smallest facial expressions. On the other hand, email and text chat are pretty bad for interactions. Too often, you’re exchanging messages with a faceless entity, with no clue of the context in which they’re receiving your message.
To build a human-centric system, we have to include elements along the way that encourage interaction. A good place to start is to favor profile pictures over generic icons. The smallest illustration can turn chat or email from a wall of text to a warm conversation.
Consider ways that allow emotions to come through. Whether you love or hate Facebook, the “like” button and other quick emotional responses were a key early feature. Even conveying the simplest emotion pushes the conversation to the human side.
With hundreds of messages and tasks whizzing past your screen in a typical day, it’s important to remember that every business interaction is an interaction with people. You do need to convey an air of seriousness, but no one wants to feel like they’re talking to a robot. Successful companies will be the ones that get the human element back into business relationships, both within your team and across company boundaries. In the end, interactions are more important than features.