3 minute read 13 May 2020
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How to inject some fun and energy into virtual working

By

Catriona Campbell

EY EMEIA Advisory wavespace Leader

Matching people’s needs with what is technologically feasible.

3 minute read 13 May 2020

As we adapt to working virtually, breaking up your workday, injecting fun, and valuing people over tech can help boost morale and motivation.

The current crisis is putting remote and virtual working under the spotlight. So how can we make the best of working from home (or WFH, the acronym all the cool kids are using)?

While this feels like a gift to my more introverted friends, who work best alone, possibly on the sofa and in their pyjamas, I flourish in a bricks-and-mortar setting surrounded by the creativity and energy of my colleagues. We are all adapting.

It’s also worth noting that this is really working through a crisis (WTC) – which for many means being at home with restless or anxious kids, partners, flatmates or parents. Like most, I’ve had to implement new mechanisms to overcome the challenges of working virtually.

My background in the field of Human-Computer Interaction – which, at its most basic level, relates to our connection as humans with digital tools, and our interactions with each other using these tools – is coming in handy as I adapt.

So, in case your teams are struggling to adapt to lockdown life, keep spirits up, and thrive in frighteningly uncertain times, here they are:

1. Break up your day

Constructing a healthy and appealing work environment centered on human interaction and collaboration takes effort. I recently caught up with Bruce Daisley, author of best-selling business book The Joy of Work, who believes finding balance is the secret. “One progressive organization,” he says, “told me they have changed the way that meetings work. No meetings are longer than 30 minutes, and everyone is entitled to put blocks of ‘Do Not Schedule’ time in their calendar to deal with screaming children.”

This idea of thinking about work in blocks is one Bruce stands behind. “What do you need to do? Can you do it in an hour of concentration in the mornings? When do you need to communicate with colleagues? Can you do that in a block of time (where everyone is online together) before lunch?" 

You may need to change the way your structure your day. Try working in blocks: When can you concentrate? When do you need to communicate? When do you need to be offline?

If we break the working day into blocks in this way, we’ll derive satisfaction from getting things done and feeling like we’re doing a good job. Fortunately, we have the digital tools we need to facilitate such an environment – such as Microsoft Teams, Mural, Mentimeter and Kahoot! Imagine how much harder this would be if the pandemic had happened fifteen years ago.

Once you’ve set some clear expectations about what people need to accomplish, introduced flexibility into the work day and given them the collaborative tools they need, it’s time to inject some fun – yes, fun.

2. Inject fun, excitement and energy into virtual working

I work with EY wavespaceTM – a group that has been running immersive, collaborative sessions for years. In these difficult times, we continue to do so – only now we’re doing it completely virtually. We’re using technology to connect people in a human-centered way that inspires innovation, stretches thinking and accelerates transformation.

We’ve found that adding fun, excitement and energy into the equation creates a more rewarding and enjoyable work experience. Sadly, not a single one of those vital ingredients is present for many teams. People are reporting exhaustion as they spend most of the day on calls. 

You can inject fresh life into team calls by finding new ways to connect. A little cheer and vitality go a long way in building morale.

Leaders are responsible for introducing these elements. And even though we’re all learning as we go, I’d encourage leaders to make it a priority to inject fresh life into team calls. I’m not suggesting companies should transform WFH into some circus with giggles and monkey tricks. I’m simply saying a little cheer and vitality can go a long way in building morale.

For example, one of the things we’ve done is to introduce a Microsoft Teams social hour after wavespace sessions, where people can catch up over a cuppa (or their poison of choice, if work is done and dusted for the day). Everyone loves seeing all the bakery-quality sourdough their teammates are producing, and hearing about the creative ways people are spending their time, including recreating famous paintings with items they have around the house. 

3. Show that you value people over technology

Even when you rely on technology, it doesn’t have to take center stage. Yes, digital collaboration tools are needed to pull off fruitful virtual wavespace sessions, but ideally, they remain invisible. In our view, the technology works best when you don’t even notice it.

Even when you rely on technology, it doesn’t have to take center stage. When people play second fiddle to technology, they start to disconnect.

When people play second fiddle to technology, they start to disconnect. We see this when companies use tech in place of humans to cut costs rather than supplementing and empowering them. The end result? Companies fail to enhance performance and effectiveness or add value

When I worked as the first Head of Digital for a major bank, tellers were concerned they’d be replaced by ATMs. Instead, the exact opposite happened – because banks used ATMs to automate the dull tasks, the ones people didn’t like anyway. Keep the focus on people.

4. Social distancing doesn’t mean no social activity

Staying connected in a virtual world is important. Bruce mentioned that his “former colleagues at Twitter are running a weekly Sofa Conference and are getting thousands of people tuning in each week.” Some companies are running quizzes for clients. These are great ideas, ones we can all draw inspiration from.

People are the source of a company’s solutions: they are the ones who keep the company going, and hopefully thriving. Make sure they understand this and that they know their efforts are appreciated. After all, who doesn’t like to feel they’re making a real difference? 

Summary

People are the source of a company’s solutions: they are the ones who keep the company going, and hopefully thriving. While so many of us are working virtually, companies should encourage people to break up their work days to balance their responsibilities, inject fun into virtual working to keep energy levels up, and make sure people understand they are more important than technology. Ensuring people know their efforts are appreciated will help to boost morale and motivation.

About this article

By

Catriona Campbell

EY EMEIA Advisory wavespace Leader

Matching people’s needs with what is technologically feasible.