Despite Remote Work’s Grip, In-Person Interaction Remains Critical

By Phil Kelley Jr. April 20, 2022
Despite Remote Work’s Grip, In-Person Interaction Remains Critical

​Ever wonder what people working remotely miss the most about going into an office?

The Internet security research firm Twingate decided to ask them. Twingate conducted a national survey on the subject and, while workers missed plenty of things, at the top of the list was "social connections," followed closely by "human contact in general."

Frankly, those answers aren't surprising, but they hold important information for executives in the C-suite still wrestling with questions about whether remote work should continue, or whether employees should be beckoned back to the worksite, or whether some hybrid of the two is best.

Interactions with other people are essential for human beings, and those interactions significantly affect our state of mind. We were built to interact, socialize, gather and sort ourselves into social groups.

Certainly, there are advantages to flexible remote-work schedules, and many workers have made it known that they prefer it that way. But if remote work isn't handled correctly—and if trends continue, such as hot-desking policies in which no one is assigned a permanent workspace at the office—the big loser will be corporate culture. As anyone who runs a company knows, when culture suffers, so does the entire enterprise.

A great organizational culture—one in which people feel engaged, connected and purposeful—helps achieve financial success. This is because the attitudes of the people in such an organization ultimately reach and affect customers. To put it simply, satisfied employees tend to foster satisfied customers.

Developing a True Connection

That's why it's important to make it a priority to promote the development of authentic connections and good relationships within a company. For an organization to succeed, every executive leader, top- and middle-level manager, and individual in the company must learn to "be present" in each interaction, even if they aren't literally present in the same room.

Unfortunately, building and maintaining good internal relationships gets more difficult when those relationships are mediated by technology such as e-mails, texts, phone calls and video calls.

While some communication is better than none, what's ultimately important is making a true connection with other people. For that purpose, a phone call is better than an e-mail, a video chat is better than a phone call, and in-person contact is best of all.

If working remotely is done in such a way that it eliminates employee interaction, then the quality of your culture will suffer. That will, in turn, lower employee satisfaction and increase turnover.

It all goes back to that saying popularized by writer and management consultant Peter Drucker: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."                                        

Why is that so? It's because strategy is about abstract ideas and culture is about the connection between human beings. The more that business people are attuned to the human need for making connections, the more successful they will be.

Making an Appearance

Your more ambitious employees will probably want to make appearances at the worksite as much as possible, even if they routinely work remotely. They may understand that if they want to advance in the company or get a raise, it is always best to take the path of highest relational value. This doesn't necessarily mean that those in the C-suite have some grand plan for favoring the people who come to work in person. It's just that better relationships will naturally develop, and with those better relationships comes an inherent advantage for receiving promotions, raises and other rewards.

With that in mind, businesses should make an effort to connect their brand to community-focused initiatives.

Having your employees working alongside passionate community volunteers for the betterment of all should be on the top of every brand promotion list. Engage your company with industry trade organizations, civic and church projects, charities, and educational events. These kinds of activities are one way to "be present," and they enhance corporate culture while helping the company connect in a different way with the customers it serves.                                                             

Relationships are so important to people that any company that makes a real connection with a customer can win that customer's loyalty for life.  

Phil Kelley Jr. (www.philkelleyjr.com) is the author of Presence and Profitability: Understanding the Value of Authentic Communications in the Age of Hyper-Connectivity. He also is president and CEO of Salem One, which specializes in direct marketing, packaging, printing and logistics.

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