By: Jeff Robbins
It’s a digital world… and we love it. We’ve got techie people doing techie things with techie tools. We employ programmers and developers who translate words and pictures into ones and zeroes, and product designers who conduct weight threshold testing in AutoCAD instead of a lab. Without all of this, remote work wouldn’t be possible.
Even for distributed companies whose output is not technology, virtual teams use technological tools for communication. We use video and audio conferencing tools, screen sharing, and text communications tools. Wittingly or unwittingly, we end up stringing together these sophisticated tools to create a workflow in order to get work done at unprecedented speeds. But as our funnels are filling up more and more with tools, there is less and less room left for humans.
No, I’m not talking about artificial intelligence. I’m talking about actual intelligence. When we see a checkmark pop up on the team’s to do list, it is slowly becoming our default reaction to celebrate that the task is complete instead of celebrating the human who put 16 hours of work into completing that task. When the CRM pumps out a satisfying new year-end report, we’re grateful for such an intuitive tool instead of being grateful for the dedicated team who developed the new strategies that triggered such great numbers.
One of the greatest challenges of remote work is isolation. The assumption is that this is a feeling of loneliness as a result of working alone in a home office all day. This is absolutely true. However, the dehumanization of our communication and processes can also be a major contributing factor. When we demand productivity, only recognize results, automate processes, and communicate with pings, we are treating our employees like machines. How can being treated like a hunk of metal not leave a worker feeling unsatisfied and burned out? If an employee is feeling like that, they are going to not only feel isolated physically and geographically, but also isolated emotionally.
So, how do we humanize our teams? Host in-person gatherings, utilize video calls, make small talk before meetings, ship gifts, write colloquial messages, use names, provide culture-building channels… do whatever it takes to remember that the people you work with are actually people, and remind them that you value their personalities just as much as their results.