Context Is Key to Improving the Remote Work Experience

Context Is Key to Improving the Remote Work Experience

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The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been profound for corporate real estate professionals as they rethink and rapidly reconfigure their workplaces to adapt to the “new normal.”

Foreword

The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been profound for corporate real estate professionals as they rethink and rapidly reconfigure their workplaces to adapt to the “new normal.” In our Mighty Guide eBook, 7 Experts on Reimagining the Workplace, we interview real estate professionals on the impact of COVID-19 on their roles and their employees’ well-being as well as how they anticipate moving forward. In this blog post, Christian Bigsby shares his perspective on how corporate real estate professionals must address a new set of challenges and opportunities.

What do corporate real estate professionals need to understand next to support company leaders?

Going forward, it’s important to understand what has happened with people’s ability to work remotely and why people come into the office in the first place. To that end, the process starts with understanding what your company leaders are doing and thinking about when it comes to their people. How are they keeping those people connected?

It’s not about productivity. We can all stay individually productive. How do you keep those inspiring moments when you can’t physically connect with one another and you can’t look across the table, shake hands, or work on a project on the same sheets of paper? What are leaders doing to activate their spaces? What are they trying to do to bring their teams, processes, and products together?

What could the process of discovering these inspiring moments and figuring out how to create them in a remote context look like?

The process starts with spending time with leaders to understand what we’re missing while working remotely during this pandemic. Then, we figure out how we fill the gaps by bringing teams together for the right purposes; with the right activities, or even with the right rituals. It’s basically the process of user-centered design.

Don’t be in a rush to rebuild buildings or restack floors. Be in a rush to understand how leaders are changing their style because of remote working and what they feel they’re missing because of remote work. It’s important that we don’t just surprise businesses with a new solution. We should actually spend some time helping redesign those experiences or work activities that leaders are trying to embrace with their teams.

What do you think is currently missing when people collaborate with one another remotely?

You and I can connect with each other from any two locations on the globe right now, but what we’re missing is the context of what’s going on in your situation and my situation. Our connections are increasingly taking place online, so it’s important to understand the well-being aspect of our workplace collaborations—how people work remotely and still have time to get away from the desk, get away from the screen, take a walk, have a meal, talk to a colleague, and have a human connection.

How do we read body language virtually? Are the people I’m talking to engaged? Are they multitasking? If they are disengaged, how do we give people some help, some cues? The challenge is how to do all that without getting creepy. How do you do it without making people feel like they’re being spied on? Our focus should be on trying to level the playing field so that we can give people well- being cues when it’s time to take a break.

Imagine if you and I saw each other’s calendars before our upcoming meeting. You saw that I just came off of six straight hours of meetings, and you just came off a three-hour business review. We would both probably be pretty fatigued. That information gives us a bit of context so that we know how to greet one another. That’s an important part of what we’re doing here at Cisco, and it’s pretty exciting. We are looking at that next-generation shift around how to create a virtual experience that becomes much closer to a real human experience.