A digital future does not include disconnecting with your people
I listened to an Economist Podcast recently, where novelist Martin Amis described the life of a writer as being based on solitude and not on community. He highlighted that his profession had arguably been the least inconvenienced by COVID-19. He went on to say that what we’re all missing is society.
This got me thinking. Whilst I am a passionate believer that companies must digitally evolve, we are missing society in our workplaces, and this is starting to erode culture. It’s leading to workplace fatigue at best and, in more severe cases, burnout and an impact on mental health. Overlooking the ongoing importance of culture can lead to disengagement. Therefore, a digital future does not include disconnecting with your people.
The explosion of video-based interaction is undoubtedly an opportunity to improve efficiency through digital means. But, as a guest on last week’s Digital Careers podcast said to me: if companies run video calls exclusively, then staff are worn out by lunchtime.
As another example, one close friend I spoke to recently in the banking sector admitted to working until 10 pm most nights. I asked if this was due to workload or a lack of delineation between work and personal life? The answer was: ‘a bit of both’, and I’ll be talking about the importance of creating boundaries in our digital worlds in next week’s article.
I was privileged to have watched a global client launch recently – run virtually, of course. What impressed me most was to see that, in addition to investing heavily in digital, core purpose and culture were the overarching priorities. Incidentally, research shows that companies which are defined by purpose and culture are more successful on several measures including business growth, profitability and staff retention – all of which interconnect, of course.
And this is perhaps what some companies have overlooked during COVID? The necessity to continually reinforce to people the reason the company exists. To quote Simon Sinek (look him up on YouTube if you don’t know him) it’s the about the big ‘why’?
I agree with Martin Amis that humans are social creatures, and I, for one, am missing the enjoyment of physical business interactions. Relationship building and creativity are two areas in my personal experience that are easier in person rather than virtually. And quite frankly, it’s infinitely more energising! It seems the clients I’m speaking to agree, with most looking to embrace a blended approach of office and home bases in future working patterns.
Now is an excellent opportunity for companies to get ready for the post-COVID world and clearly define company purpose and remember that culture matters more now than ever before.
The winners will be those embracing technology but also, critically, the businesses that haven’t forgotten people are at the heart of any digital advances.
Next week I’ll be talking about the importance of creating boundaries in our digital worlds.
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