Working remotely is a growing trend since two decades. While the "stay-long-in-office-to-show-your-hard-work"/presenteeism culture was still very present in companies, that trend was growing at a slower pace. With Covid-19, we all jumped in. And the trend became a mega trend, or to put it differently, it was like the kick we needed to make us change the way we think, act and behave
And this kick, this shift brought us in a new paradigm, changing the world as we knew it. Which is quite typical to our human nature. Already like Plato said a couple of thousand years ago: "There is nothing stable in life but change". Or Socrates: "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new." Change always is around us. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but we cannot stop it.
One big change in our times is and will be the way we approach work, working environments and interacting with each other in a professional context. COVID-19 is forcing this change faster as we thought and most of us hoped for. Just because the old way worked so long, it's better to try with all we have to keep it as it is? No! Just let it go and give another generation the chance to rebuild what the people before us built.
We are forced now to stay at home, work in our apartments and houses, isolated from our colleagues and managers as well as customers. And most of us said: Yay! Finally we can work from home - and it really works! Including me btw..
And yes it's true. It works. It works much better than we thought actually. Although many studies showed a positive effect, there were no studies or no experiment at such a large scale to find out the potential consequences on people, work and working environments.
What we found out already is that some parameters in remote working societies have more critical effects compared to others. For example isolation.
Isolation is one of the most critical parameters in remote work. Feeling isolated, alone, and disconnected from groups and not being informed or even being misinformed is causing lots of psychological issues. More than anything it affects the way we work and the way we think of work. Therefore it is crucial, especially in times of social isolation, to try everything we can to stay connected.
«ut let's turn that argument around and view it from a different perspective: In fact there is a lot of studies which show why it is important to work in groups and stay connected, same as which effects isolation causes. To summarize them:
Reasons to stay connected:
● Human beings are not made to be and act alone, we need each other to not only create better results, but also to stay in good mental condition. The human race is 20000 years old and was made to live in tribes to survive. This mental need has not changed since the last update 10000 years ago.
● Because a group of people is stronger than one individual which results in solid and stronger outcomes and solutions, also because more people believe in the outcome
● Because working in groups makes organizations faster and more efficient. Not only i have seen it in my 15+ years of HR experience in developing organizations but also studies show the same effect. If you want to tread more about that, please use the publications from these 2 authors:
● Floren, Franz-Josef: Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft, Politik. Sozialwissenschaften in der Jahrgangsstufe 11, Paderborn: Schöningh 2007, S.282-283.
● Stroebe, Wolfgang et al.: Sozialpsychologie. Eine Einführung, Heidelberg: Springer 2003, S. 497ff.
Effects which occur due to isolation:
● Our mental system is based on being part of a community. Being with others makes us happy. Being alone causes lots of psychological diseases, like studies show. (Clofford Singer, MD. Health Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness) Some include stress, frustration, fearfulness, and feeling unsafe.
● Isolation affects the whole society and changes us as humans as well as our environments. If the majority of people are working remotely, environments will adapt to it automatically, no matter what the possible negative effects are.
● We are less social, so our brain and mental system changes over time. This will affect generations after us much more than us, as we will become more and more "lonely wolves instead of tribes". So e.g. the birth rate will go down significantly or we do not teach how to communicate anymore (parents their children) to name just two dramatic outcomes.