Work-From-Home

Individualism And A Hive Mind Are 2 Unfortunate Byproducts of Work-From-Home

I woke up this morning in a complete funk. After taking the dog out for a walk — our usual morning ritual for him to do his business — I crawled back into bed, hid under my covers, and teared up a little. We were supposed to have a long weekend with Friday, 1 May, being Labour Day, but I didn’t feel like I had one. In fact, since Singapore started enforcing work-from-home measures for all non-essential businesses, it’s as if my weekends have vanished into thin air.

All over LinkedIn, bosses, CEOs, and leaders seem to be wrestling for the “Most Positive During Covid-19” crown. They are setting the tone to assure their employees that they are keeping a cool head in these unprecedented times and, most importantly, that they are in control. They are showing that they do prioritise the safety of their people and that they are well-placed to thrive in the “new normal”.

But I’m also sitting in my home office and thinking to myself, “If the ‘new normal’ means all interactions with colleagues and clients are going to be from behind a screen, I’m not sure it’s something I can get behind.”

Are We Building More Silos Or Breaking Them Down?

The picture that remote working allows an individual to thrive in their own space, that a person can now be more productive because there are no distractions or “rules” to concern themselves with, is just half of it.

It’s a delicate balance between “Regulated” and “Free”. In the office, too many rules could stifle innovation. In the same vein, too little regulation can also get in the way of progress. In a remote work setting, we risk having individualistic people becoming even more guarded of their space, time, and relationships. Even with tools like Zoom, spontaneous meetings are less likely to happen than if we were all in the office and the boss decided he needed a quick huddle.

The assumption that everyone keeps the same hours during work-from-home is misplaced and, as we drag out this arrangement, people will start to develop their own routine, which may not necessarily be in sync with other team members or clients. In the name of respecting personal productivity rhythms, could we also be encouraging the building of virtual walls and silos?

Are We Encouraging The Hive Mind?

In a face-to-face meeting, so many things are at play: relationships, chemistry, and having ideas bounce off each other … When you’re trying to do a brainstorm over Zoom, it can be tempting to set everyone on the same line of thought so the session would be less disruptive and more “productive” (time-wise).

Ever had 2 or more people trying to talk over each other on Zoom? It’s not very enjoyable. But imagine doing this in person: Actor 1 disagrees, tries to get Actor 2’s attention, voices his opinions, inspires Actor 3 who then wants to jump in with his thoughts but is watching how Actor 2 is responding to Actor 1 … it’s lively, it encourages debate and creativity … potentially giving birth to some outside-the-box ideas.

Because what do you do to ensure your Zoom meeting goes smoothly? You send an agenda ahead of time, get everyone to contribute their talking points in a deck you share over Google Drive, you may also attempt to get a couple of participants over to your side by doing a “pre-meeting meeting” to ensure everyone is “on the same page”.

Disagreements are often swept under the carpet or “taken offline”, and if someone finds it futile to pursue another line of argument, they often go off, do up their own deck, and send it over to everyone to “sound people out about something I’ve been thinking about”.

If your team doesn’t have a strong history of collaboration and trust, it’s very difficult to be the dissenting voice. The result of this is, newcomers are often overlooked and people are penalised for not “getting with the programme”.

I like working from home — but in small doses. Working from home is great when I have a ton of writing to do, a deck to rush out, a proposal to formulate, etc. And, although we tell each other that it’s possible to do everything virtually, there are just some nuances that we cannot replicate and catch unless we are face-to-face.

Do you agree?

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

Fintech comms manager with a side hustle selling traditional Peranakan desserts and a podcast called “Good Girls Talk About Money”