📑 What If Working From Home Goes on … Forever?

Bookmarked What If Working From Home Goes on … Forever?

The coronavirus crisis is forcing white-collar America to reconsider nearly every aspect of office life. Some practices now seem to be wastes of time, happily discarded; others seem to be unexpectedly crucial, and impossible to replicate online. For workers wondering right now if they’re ever going back to the office, the most honest answer is this: Even if they do, the office might never be the same.

Clive Thompson breaks down a number of stories and challenges associated with the move to remote working. He explores how sales has moved online, with adjustments to the pitches, including a focus on lighting and virtual background. He unpacks the changes associated with balancing work and personal in the same space. A key part of this is the use of a range of productivity tools and adjustments to the way we work.

Like Estenson, they had, over weeks of experimentation, begun to recognize and adjust to the strengths and weaknesses of their various communications tools. Zoom meetings carried a whiff of formality, since they were preplanned — with a link to join sent around — so it felt like filing into a conference room: useful for talking business, but a bit stiff for batting around ideas between two people. So, for quick, one-to-one talks, they gravitated to a feature in Slack that enables video calls between two users. Someone who saw a colleague logged into Slack — signaled by a green dot beside the name — could instantly request a video chat. It was more like popping your head over a cubicle wall unannounced, to engage a colleague in an impromptu two-minute confab. Tracy Coats, the company’s director of partnerships, said she had become an ardent fan of this practice.

The reality is that remote work can present a certain paradox. You can feel removed from colleagues even while drowning in digital messages from them. Associated with this, many feel fatigue due to the preformative aspects of being a part of video conferences all day long.

Video chat also makes it harder to achieve “synchrony,” a sort of unconscious, balletic call-and-response that emerges when two people are in the same room. In this situation, we often mimic someone’s body posture without realizing it and scrutinize tiny bits of facial timing — noticing, say, when the other person is about to smile.

Another problem is that there is more effort required when online.

Research suggests that people find it harder to build cohesion and trust online. David Nguyen says his academic research found that “in a videoconferencing situation, trust is actually quite fragile.” Work by him and others in the field shows that people more readily form cooperative bonds when they are face to face, whereas in video “trust is diminished overall,” he says. “Trust grows a little slower than in face-to-face conditions.”

This is something that Mike Caulfield touches on in regards to the delivery of content.

It is interesting to consider this alongside Ben WIlliamson and Anna Hogan’s work in regards to the evolution of the global education industry during the pandemic.

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