Worrying About The New Normal? Let’s Focus On Making Remote Work Exceptional Instead. | Hacker Noon

June 24th 2020

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Digital Facilitation Platform

There are many contenders for the Oxford Word of the Year in 2020. The award – which can also be a phrase – is awarded as a reflection of the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year.

“Climate emergency” took home the gold medal in 2019.

And while competition will be stiff, “the new normal” is certainly a phrase on everyone’s lips following the global COVID-19 pandemic.

But why do we have to settle for normal?

We’re living at a time when we’ve come to realize that you don’t need a school to teach children, a cinema to watch movies, a store to buy consumer goods, or an office to run a business.

But the tools we’re using in place of these institutions are, to be honest, mere digital versions of the status quo. Instead of meetings in an office, we have meetings on Zoom. Instead of real, in-person discussions centered on a project or task, we use Slack, and Trello.

While that is seen as a positive move for many, every company that makes this decision is unknowingly increasing the negative effects of remote work.

As reported by the BBC recently, following discussions with an associate professor at INSEAD, Gianpiero Petriglieri, and an associate professor at Clemson University, Marissa Shuffler, constant Zoom calls are causing fatigue and distrust.

“Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not,” Petriglieri said. “That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally.”

“Silence creates a natural rhythm in a real-life conversation,” he added. “However, when it happens in a video call, you became anxious about the technology.”

So how can we improve the situation, and get beyond the new normal? How can we find ways to work remotely, and manage remote teams, in a way that can produce extraordinary results?

Shuffler suggested to the BBC that shared files with clear notes can be a better option than Zoom calls and other synchronous communications. Moving to an asynchronous solution can avoid information overload, something people with high intelligence can suffer from, in particular, thanks to their ability to ingest higher volumes of information.

CEO at Howspace, Ilkka Mäkitalo, adds that

“in modern organizations (especially in holacratic and teal structured businesses) everyone needs to know how to facilitate an initiative or drive a project or change. This is especially true in organizations that largely employ experts. In the best organizations, ideally, you’d like everyone to contribute toward problem statements so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute, and has the authority or even a duty to improve things.”

So while occasional Zoom calls can benefit those working from home, helping them to stay connected to their colleagues, implementing better structures for collaboration can not only help keep your employees organized, empowered, and motivated, they can also give you a competitive edge over those businesses that employ rudimentary, digital alternatives to real-life experiences.

As detailed in an article by Steve Glaveski, Mullenweg believes that effective written communication becomes critical the more companies embrace remote work. With an aversion to ‘jumping on calls’ at a whim, and a preference for asynchronous communication. He says that most of Automattic’s communications are text-based, and so articulate and timely articulation becomes key.

That being said, asynchronous communication often hasn’t realized its full potential. Slack has changed the way we work in teams forever, but it can often be overwhelming. Finding important information within the constant stream of text, and the way it deals with threaded comments, make it sometimes overwhelming, and often counterintuitive to use.

Implementing better systems also comes at a cost. While the likes of Microsoft Teams are helping to bridge asynchronous communication with video conferencing, many of these systems require significant technical resources, and even then, some of them do not work across all platforms and devices.

It’s the reason people like Mäkitalo have become passionate about solving this issue, and providing tools like Howspace, to bring participative leadership principals to life in a digital solution, compatible with any device, and with zero coding or integration needed.

“As we move towards organizations, events, products, and services being fully online and remote, it is important we strive to meet the needs of both the individuals involved, and the organization’s needs,” Mäkitalo said. “Individuals will feel fulfilled as they know their purpose, and they can contribute and do meaningful things while having their voice heard.”

With the right tools that extend the remote working experience by incorporating everything from collaboration to resource and time booking, from asynchronous conversation to learning systems, and combining this with AI-powered tools to help everyone summarize the content and makes sense of it (especially new joiners, who need to get up to speed fast), it is entirely possible to go beyond “the new normal” and reach “the new extraordinary” instead.


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