Snipply is all about the future of work, an interesting term that blankets everything from AI and automation to shifting demographics and workplace environments and dynamics. We believe the future of work is way more about how we work, and how technology is influencing how we work together.

A common theme we've been seeing with in how we work, is how we measure both productivity and employee health - which both contribute greatly to overall company health. In our interview series we kicked off, we started with Hason Greene, an expert on human resource strategy and solving the current and future challenges facing organizations by prescribing human-intelligent remedies backed by data, neuroscience, and analytics.

He spoke a bit about employee and company health, and we wanted to do a bit of a deeper dive into the topics presented. To start we are looking at remote work, and how isolation might be at the root of many of the issues companies are currently facing, or are likely to face down the road.

We asked Hason how he saw technology changing the way we work and interact with the companies we are a part of. In his answer he touched upon remote work, and elaborated with this piece of information:

"it’s widely known that the same technology that is meant to connect us more easily is making us, at the same time, feel more isolated. This is where companies and future technologies need to do better to create greater personal 'connection'."

I thought it would be interesting to explore this a bit further.  First we need to define isolation. From Interact Intranet:

Isolation and loneliness: they aren’t the same “Loneliness is emotional. Isolation is structural. “[…] Loneliness is an emotional response to lack of connection – and people can feel just as lonely in the office as outside of it.
“Isolation, on the other hand, is related to access – or lack of it. The isolated can’t get the materials or information they need; they think their achievements or development are ignored; they feel cut off from the business.” (Gallup) Both are a high risk for employees during the current situation.

Interact Intranet argues that isolation is easier to address and prevent due to it largely being structural as opposed to emotional.  While this is true, if these issues aren't proactively handled, then there could be repercussions.  People are individuals, and emotional beings - the practice of isolation could have unintended consequences in employee health and stress levels. furthers this sentiment when the write "Since remote workers do not have the same access to this daily interaction process, it’s no wonder that they forge a sense of loneliness. Australian Psychological Society conducted a study that shows, every 1 out of 2 individuals report that they feel lonely for a minimum of 1 day a week."

Furthermore, Buffer reported that 19% of remote employees stated isolation as their #1 problem and a report by ‘Igloo’stated that 70% of employees working remotely feels left out of their workplace.

Hason seemed to agree when stated this during the interview about the challenges of the future of how we will work:

One of the greatest challenges, that I have been thinking about, will be the mental health issues that result from remote work. We will eventually reach an inflection point where companies realize the cost savings of not having a physical office, and will go to mostly remote work. The isolation this will create will result in increased anxiety and depression, which will result in lower productivity levels (not because the tech is not available) but because human behavior and personalities are what they are. This will have a ripple effect.

But what can we do? There are a number of things we can start doing today that I've felt helped either avoid or damper the effects of isolation in working remote.

Ensure Access To What Is Needed

As we previously wrote, According to a 2016 IDC report, more than half of companies ranging from 100 to 5,000+ employees use at least three repositories for accessing documents on a weekly basis. Difficulty in finding the right information amongst these content silos creates employee stress — this 2015 survey by Wrike found the number one source of stress in the workplace is waiting to receive information or not being able to find the content they need to do their job.

A proactive approach to making sure information is accessible, processes are documented, and help is able to be found are paramount.

Make Sure Your Team Is On The Same Page

We’ve implemented OKR’s for all team members. It’s super simple to align short term tasks and long term strategy around goals that are quantifiable and measurable when organized into OKR’s. By implementing OKR’s our CEO always has insight into what everyone is working on, what is expected to get done each week, where projects are stuck, and where we are in terms of short term execution moving the company towards achieving long term goals.

Make Sure Your Team Is Connected

Communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams are invaluable. Don't just set them up, make sure they are properly implemented and being used on a regular basis. We've also set up "water cooler" meetings where the team can all get together to chat about anything work or non-work related.

Practice Your Company Values Through Employee Engagement

In 2015, a Gallup study found that only 30% of employees say that they’re actually engaged in their job. Unfortunately, more than 50% of employees said they weren’t engaged, and around 20% stated that they were “actively disengaged.” The lack of engagement drastically affects business productivity, and only increases when working remote. According to Business2Community, organizations with high employee engagement outperform those with low employee engagement by 202%.

Furthermore, employees are more engaged when they feel like they are contributing to the company culture and mission. IBM found that 80% of employees felt more engaged when their work was consistent with the core values and mission of their organization.

Recognize And Reward Teamwork

Recognizing and rewarding collaborative efforts sends a positive message to your team members about the work they are doing individually and as a team. Being a vocal team leader can pay off tremendously, as Reward Gateway found that 70% of employees say motivation and morale would improve massively with managers saying thank you more. This is the type of interaction that can vanish when working remote so make it something that is top of mind when managing others.

Create a culture of Knowledge Sharing

A culture of knowledge sharing allows employees to support each other through the challenges they face and ultimately leads to happier and more connected teams. Google and Raconteur found that 88% of employees agree that a culture of knowledge-sharing correlates to high employee morale and job satisfaction.

There are a number of tools that can help with all of these items. We wrote about many of them in the Freelance & Remote Work Toolkit you can find here. But beyond the tools you implement it is something that needs buy-in - from management and from workers. And it is something that needs to remain top of mind as you move towards a a remote work environment as the stand work environment.

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