How Virtual Work Humanizes the Workplace

When you think about virtual work, what immediately comes to mind? Skype, Zoom, GoToWebinar? Quiet – almost too quiet – workspaces? Perhaps it’s quite the opposite, workspaces with constant interruption from children, pets, spouses and deliveries.

What you may not think about is how virtual work actually humanizes the workplace. Despite the distance, decreased facetime, and an influx of technology, working remotely actually allows us to build a different type of connection with our colleagues – one that is more personal in a number of ways.

We’re Becoming More Empathetic

There is a certain security in sitting behind a screen and that feeling of safety allows us to be more open and honest with what we’re dealing with. Employees can let their guard down and break emotional barriers that typically exist in a workplace. Or even more specifically, that need to be on and at top peak all the time.

With the influx of workers currently telecommuting, consider this: when is the last time you heard a team member sigh or see them throw an apologetic smile as their dog barked frantically at a courier or their kids ran yelling in the background of a video call? Chances are, those on the call were all able to relate in one way or another and offer knowing glances, laugh it off, and extend words of understanding as they share their own stories. People bond over collective experiences and working remotely is certainly no different.

How Virtual Work Humanizes the Workplace

COVID-19’s Impact on Virtual Work

This has been even further underscored by the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many workers going remote due to necessity over personal choice, there is a strong sense of camaraderie in that as teams work together to get through the hurdles that developed from the haphazard transition.

Before the pandemic, virtual workers tended to jump on calls and discuss the project at hand. Or, get to know each other through surface-level activities like ice breaker exercises. Now, with the stress they’re under, people are opening up to each other and being more authentic, both on team calls and in one-to-one meetings. They’re discussing how they are coping, where they are struggling, how much harder it is to have work-life balance, and the stress of the news.

How Virtual Work Humanizes the Workplace

We’re Letting Our Guard Down

Beyond that, virtual workplaces also allow us to dig a little deeper into who someone is. When we eliminate the clear divide between our workplaces and our personal lives – with many people working from their own homes – it gives us an opportunity to see our colleagues in a more natural light, without their corporate persona. We don’t just see how they handle those awkward-to-manage interruptions; we are also getting a chance to meet their families and see a more genuine side of them.

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We’re Communicating More Clearly

In a virtual environment, there is also a large emphasis on communication. While we can sometimes overdo it with too many meetings or Slack messages, there is also a silver lining in that communication is an essential component in our natural human-to-human connection. The nature of virtual work requires us to be more intentional about what we need to say and when we need to say it. We’re also being more mindful of what other people are going through, with empathy also having a positive influence on communication styles.

Changing the Future of Working

Virtual work provides a number of ways for employees to build more genuine connections with their colleagues and their managers, bringing a very human element into the workplaces. Whether your team stays remote or opts for a hybrid approach post-pandemic, the interactions you’re having today can help you build a more closely-knit team.

Take the time to have conversations with your team members about their thoughts on this too. Keeping the lines of communication open will help you build a strong foundation and strengthen your resilience through challenging times – when humanizing the workplace is more important
than ever. While many of the stressors virtual workers are currently experiencing will eventually go away, the willingness to be open, to be authentic, and to share is not something you’ll want to lose.

As a leader, think about what you can do now to build the team and company you want to have post-pandemic. Instead of returning to a task-first mentality, consider how you can truly humanize the room and maintain authentic connections within your organization.

Are you leading a virtual team? Check out the variety of resources we have available including news and insights, as well as a variety of COVID-19 articles to help you through the pandemic.