I recently read an article about a start-up that began with two people developing their company by collaborating remotely, one in England and one in Russia. There was no requirement for an office for their company. As they grew organically, the additional staff they attracted were also remote; therefore, evolving into a completely remote company. In order to create as much synergy as possible, they arrived at the conclusion that they needed some method of connecting all the employees on a regular basis and technology was the route they identified. Their solution was to create, a Slack bot, a bot that checked in twice a day with the employees, asking them to share their mood, and then track the collective mood of the company. Their hypothesis was that the employees were more willing to share their true feelings with the bot rather than a real person.
I have employed remote workers for many years and acknowledge the benefits from a talent acquisition and retention perspective, and often, a measured increase in productivity. What I am frequently fearful of is the loss of the collective culture of the team itself. Is a person that rarely, if ever, shares their feelings, thoughts, and ideas face-to-face, truly going to develop a connection that results in a shared culture?
I see with our virtual employees the pleasure they experience when they visit the office and have the ability to share challenges and successes in the same room, stories of their families, and the events that shape their lives. There always seems to be a resulting feeling of unity and connection during these visits and after, that can’t be achieved by the sharing of moods being acquired and measured by a bot.
I may be old school and resistant to change, which may be clouding my judgement, but I believe that the ability to look in someone’s eyes, shake their hand, or even give them a hug, is a powerful path to creating a team bonded with one purpose and the commitment to the goals and aspirations of the team.
I’m fearful that technology and all its benefits, if taken to the limits of capabilities, may someday eliminate our ability as humans to relate to the concept of a team empowered by each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I suggest we tread carefully in this direction and consider the benefit of coworkers sharing a lunch regularly or even that occasional cocktail after work. I suggest we measure the benefits of those small human interactions, that may be the result of a personal victory or tragedy, and having their coworkers, often also friends, there to celebrate or mourn together before we declare the superiority of the virtual workplace.
I delight in the ability to respond to the needs of an employee that is required to work remotely due to circumstances such as geography, childcare, or other personal events. I cannot imagine a time where I would only see their faces through Facetime or Skype and would never have the chance to shake their hand and say thank you for the efforts to make ours a better and more successful company.
This blog post was written by John C. Hennessy, COO of Whitridge Associates
About Whitridge Associates
Whitridge Associates provides expert talent to a diverse group of technology companies, financial services, defense contractors and healthcare providers throughout the country. With a history of 22 plus years of unparalleled service to both our clients and consultants, Whitridge is one of the most highly regarded staffing companies in New England. Whitridge was recently recognized as an Inavero’s Best of Staffing® Client and Talent Awards winner, one of the top 100 fastest growing staffing companies in the United States and was presented with The Excellence Award from TechServe Alliance the industry’s leading trade association.
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