It’s time to make technology work for us.
I don't know about you but I miss seeing people.
The pleasure of connecting with my team in person. Chance meetings by the coffee machine. The excitement of meeting someone new. To be sure, I'm very thankful that Gen has always been set up to connect digitally and our transition to full remote working has not been too difficult. But even though we've been making the most of the best virtual collaboration tools we can find, the path to these new ways of working hasn't been so simple or easy.
As technology has evolved, humans have had to adapt to incorporate its benefits into our lives—and ways of working. Video conferencing and virtual collaboration platforms are giving us those much needed connections and social interactions, but our new "always on" virtual culture has had its side effects too. Recently, I've noticed a flurry of articles about meeting overload, Zoom fatigue, the lack of work-life boundaries, and many others. These articles generally touch on how to overcome this, but it got me thinking. Instead of giving our people tips on how to recover from bad use of technology, why don't we encourage the to adopt good habits and avoid these in the first place?
Optimizing how we work
At Gen, we focus on helping our customers leverage technology to optimize their businesses. Our products make it easy for organizations to unlock the insights in their data, but this is only half the battle. It isn't enough to just invest in software; companies must also decide how to act on these insights. Real transformation comes when we invest in people. And the shift to remote working is no different. While the latest virtual collaboration tools are designed to be intuitive, it's not so much the training we need in order to use them (or lack thereof), but rather the need to understand the process—and implications—of incorporating them into our daily lives.
So even as we continue to help our customers optimize their own organizations, Gen also needed to look inwards to make sure we are likewise optimizing our own ways of working. And what we found was concerning: our people were packing their diaries full with one-to-one calls, team meetings, collaboration sessions, and a plethora of virtual meet-ups. A refrain I started hearing from across the business was: "I'm spending so much time in internal meetings, I barely have time to do the work that comes out of them."
With all the calendar invites dedicated to meetings about planning and thinking, our people were finding they no longer had time to actually get any of said planning and thinking done. And this was starting to seriously impact our resilience, well-being and sustained productivity.
We soon realized that while we had given our people the means to stay connected in a time of isolation, we hadn't trained really them in how to work effectively—and safely—in a virtual environment. Many of us had inadvertently fallen into bad technology habits. It was clear that the main problem was how we used these tools; the time we spend and approach we have to using them. We needed to be more disciplined—making technology work for us instead of the other way around.
Fortunately, this was a mistake we could all immediately rectify. Personal measures we can take include even small things like leaving time between calls to grab a glass of water or to simply give ourselves a breather to prepare for the next conversation. Another is to stay in control of our own diaries by blocking out hours to focus. And at Gen, we've gone a step further with Thinking Thursdays. Every Thursday, we've stopped all internal meetings to give our people the time to regroup, focus and reflect. A day of largely peace and quiet to give us the space to get cracking on all the plans we made every other day of the week.
Of course, this doesn't mean cutting off all communications with others, or cramming every Thursday meeting into the other days. We still very much talk with our customers and colleagues on Thursdays, whether by chat or even phone calls. Taking one day to reflect shouldn't mean the other four days are even busier—quite the opposite, in fact. The change shouldn't just be for Thursday; it is designed to ripple through the rest of the week. It's meant to encourage our people to think about how we communicate and collaborate everyday. Whether booking a meeting is really necessary or if it could be sorted in an email thread instead. To be more mindful about how we manage our time, energy and productivity—using technology to empower us in our work instead of overwhelm and bog us down.
As employers, prioritizing the health and well-being of our people is vital to sustainable productivity and resilience. Helping our people adapt to this "new normal" by supporting healthy technology habits and mindful virtual collaboration can make a big difference. Gen will be trialing Thinking Thursdays until the end of this year, and my hope is that they give us all much-needed space to breathe, reflect and transform for the better.
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