Recently, a podcaster painted the picture of how we will only exchange our access data in the future when we change our employer, because working in a home office has established itself as the standard. I found this idea both interesting and frightening. Is it really just a matter of processing individual work orders without any emotional ties to colleagues, the job in this company or even the employer itself? Will it make no difference for whom I perform my services?
I tend towards a clear "MAYBE", because it all depends on it. It depends on how hard companies try to create space for employee retention and team building, even in times of home office.
Various studies show that the overall satisfaction of home office employees has increased by up to 30%, depending on the survey. The stress level has decreased. The compatibility of work and family contributes significantly to the perceived satisfaction. At the same time, a large percentage of those surveyed consider themselves more productive. A smaller proportion of them state that they are significantly more productive. There are differences in the groups of respondents with children and without children, whereby in principle a satisfied state was indicated in both cases.
Communication and exchange among colleagues is clearly decreasing. For respondents who currently perceive the situation as social isolation, the home office is perceived as an additional burden and in this state multiplies especially depressive symptoms.
The individual studies show a correlation between satisfaction and the service provision perceived as successful. The perceived success is more decisive than the proximity to colleagues. So if the perception of performance leads to satisfaction and social proximity is not the decisive point, do we still need employee retention or team building?
We say - in any case! Because what the studies also show is a declining sense of belonging. In the long run, this alienation leads to exactly the image we are talking about. Only access data is changed, everything else remains the same and companies struggle for skilled workers, knowledge is lost and top performers migrate.
As we can see, it's not primarily about the culture of presence that employees lack, but rather about a sense of community and belonging.
Last but not least, the issue of purpose has caused a stir in the corporate world. As early as 2014, the economic psychologist Aaron Hurst published his book "The Purpose Economy" and describes various forms in organizations in the field of meaning economy, which in practice can also appear as hybrid forms. Exploratory tours in search of one's own corporate purpose have been booming since 2018. For many employees it is no longer sufficient to do just any task for the employer. Rather, there are also questions about whether they can identify themselves with the goals, the purpose and the company itself. Transferred to the context of today's work situations in the home office without personal contact, the interdepartmental shared purpose of the company offers one of the most lasting binding elements. Coupled with shared values, this can already contribute a great deal to the "we-feeling". In addition, appreciation, regular communication and orientation are also among the things that companies can now do right in order to retain their employees in the home office in the long term. These topics deserve special attention, especially in regular company-wide meetings or online events.
In the coming days, we will also be launching a feedback round that will bring us closer to the well-being of colleagues in the home office and the To Do's for improving the situation for the coming year. At the same time, we want to find out whether the values we worked out at the beginning of the year still serve to describe the spirit of ARTS and contribute to identification.
In addition to the superior employee retention, teams and their ascribed or perceived "we-feeling" currently play an equally important role. We already know from group psychology that a common goal, shared values and norms strengthen the feeling of being part of something. Psychological security in the team creates a space for possible questions, a constructive error culture, authentic communication in which everyone can openly express their opinion without fear of negative consequences. It reflects the unrestricted acceptance of each individual team member. Come what may. At this level of maturity, teams and their members develop their full potential.
How do we achieve this even in remote work? The group psychological elements already mentioned provide orientation here. For example, our teams have explicitly taken time to define their own role as a team within the company. They have given themselves their own purpose, and in some cases nicknames have even been created for the teams. The respective creativity and characteristics reflect the character of the team. Getting to know each other beyond the job was also important in this context. Together the members discovered strengths and areas of development. Each individual contributes with his or her individuality to the success of the achievement of goals - this insight inspired our teams.
All these aspects increase the feeling of belonging and we, especially in the current times, but also beyond. In addition, we have established strategies in our Remote Work Guide, which help the teams in the current situation.
The relevance of the personal exchange at the coffee machine, during the common lunch break or when going to a common meeting only becomes apparent when it is no longer possible. Our teams have actively planned these opportunities into the working day. There are Google Meets-rooms for the common coffee break in the morning and afternoon. These and other routines give the day in the home office a structure that is otherwise lost by many colleagues when working from home. Short daily meetings to start the day or virtual meetings outside working hours are also suitable for this purpose.
Due to the already existing team values and the sensitivity for the topic of psychological security, empathy for the conversation partner is an essential part of every communication. We also incorporate this into certain meetings, each of which begins with a check-in question and leaves the room again at the end of the meeting with a check-out. These are only a few minutes each, which contribute to common learning situations, an increased sense of "we" and empathy by increasing mutual understanding and sensitization for the individual situation of the team member.
To avoid the job hopping described at the beginning, companies, managers and employees can make a significant contribution themselves. Define mutual understanding for individual challenges, common values and goals that provide both orientation and room for individual identification.
Technical possibilities facilitate the exchange across screen boundaries. If we complement this with face-to-face communication and one or the other non-professional context, we manage to act as a team even in times of home office.
Nadia Döhler has been responsible for the organisational development of the ARTS Group for 5 years. As a bridge builder between IT and users, she focuses particularly on the topic of future work design. At the same time she accompanies the change process of organisation and people and supports their potential development.