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#WFH: Being in Constant Contact Isn’t Productive

The main reason to set boundaries for constant contact is that all this connectivity can easily hurt productivity. The Pajama Effect discusses being able to align connections. In a world that constantly comes at us, it is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one. Organizations can help people learn this skill. Smartphones and devices keep us connected and engaged. They have changed the way we work and given us boundless flexibility. All this engagement can be distracting, especially if the organization and the worker have not clearly defined objectives and goals.
Study after study reveals that in a face-to face office or virtually, addiction to devices cuts into productivity. Here are some examples. Career Builder found that over 55% of people keep their device within eye shot all day long. Another study from University of Florida states that being pinged and dinged caused productivity to drop. Errors and omissions rise when workers are distracted. We have all been on conference calls or at a conference table when everyone is texting. It is annoying, distracting and most importantly it cuts down on productivity. In order to be productive, people need to be focused Supporting people in a virtual environment means training not only those people but everyone who interacts with them. Organizations can offer training that makes people aware of this and gives them suggestions on how to focus. They can also create and adhere to policies that support boundaries. If the meeting is so boring that no one cares that the leader is rambling on, the organization can help to correct that.

Social integration is of key importance to virtual workers. Leaving the virtual worker out hurts over-all productivity. The more leadership is aware of the impact of leaving out virtual workers, the less it happens. Whether done intentionally or unintentionally, a reduction in formal and informal interactions can hurt. It is a balancing act. Communication needs to be inclusive and meaningful. Learning opportunities need to address the individual and the business needs. By focusing not only on contextual knowledge but also on the importance of interactions, virtual team training can enhance an environment that is void of cues and parameters.

With cues such as age, behaviors, style of dress and others missing, it is important to give people other mechanisms for establishing a person’s prior knowledge and expertise. Virtual employees have limited access to teammates and the organization. Providing opportunities to synchronously engage is important. Social interactions require co-presence. Co-presence is based on responses and reactions. While asynchronous communication eliminates the constraints of time and space, they also diffuse the interactions between people. Social cues are eliminated and so are the responses that people learn when they learn to understand each other. Communication training, both formal and informal, helps virtual teams to be more productive, happier and more efficient.
The increasing number of virtual workers makes it important for organizations to examine what they are providing in the way of training and development. Onboarding for virtual teams is a good start but not the only learning experiences an organization should provide. In order to provide training and learning experiences that make sense for virtual workers, the organization and its leadership must understand the needs of all team members. There is a great deal of opportunity for creativity and exploration in this area.

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