The question now for leaders isn’t when their employees can come back to the office but whether they should do so at all. Companies were already looking for ways to cut their spending on office space before the coronavirus pandemic exploded. Now that we’ve gone through the global test of productivity during working from home, it’s a no-brainer. Allowing people to work from home – or wherever they are – besides cost saving, takes care of health risks associated with the virus, improves work-life balance and raises the engagement of your workforce (less commuting, more flexibility). And I am not only saying this because I get to play on my guitar and cuddle my kids during the breaks, which are both awesome by the way.
There are also a lot of problems that come with working remotely. Well, for one, you don’t just bump into each other in the hallway or have a coffee and chat together. This comes with a price.
- The lack of face-to-face communication means that it is harder to build trust and show empathy and support to others.
- Emotions are less visible which makes social bonding harder. Just think about how you celebrate a birthday or a closed deal together in the office versus on Zoom.
- You have much less opportunity for social learning. You know when people just see how others get things done and adopt these behaviors.
- The lack of shared experiences and joint stories from the office that shape the norms and culture of the team makes it hard to give a feeling of belonging to everyone.
- There are much fewer off-script conversations happening: You organize your calls for a purpose. There’s no real space for small talk, free exploration and bouncing ideas off each other without a specific reason.
According to our research, 67% of our respondents miss social interactions with colleagues (having a coffee together, lunch, jokes, etc.) the most about working in the office.
And besides all of this you need people to change their behaviors:
- Related to health and safety: wearing a mask, social distancing, disinfecting
- New tools and technologies for collaboration, communication and productivity.
- People have to get used to new ways of communicating and collaborating.
Informal networks also change:
- New connections can evolve and some connections might disappear or become much weaker.
- New roles will evolve in the community. People who were active in informal discussions in the office might lose their influence while people who feel more at home using technology might gain more informal power. New times, new stars.
THE ROLE OF ONA
This is where ONA comes in. ONA is a methodology that maps formal and informal relationships between employees. ONA allows you to identify the Influencers in your organization who can help you to spread new behaviors and communicate more effectively.
The effect of Influencers
Influencers are the most trusted employees, who others turn to for advice and who support others in times of change. They are the most well-connected in the informal networks and the most recognized for their capabilities to inspire, motivate and voice the opinions of others.
Employee reach by the 9 top Managers Employee reach by the top 9 Influencers
According to our data, Influencers – identified by our methodology – reach 3X more employees directly than top managers. They will help you get your messages through, and mobilize and spark two-way communication within the team. They can fill the gap caused by the lack of face-to-face communication. As role models, Influencers will help you to speed up adoption of new tools by inviting others to use them. They will help you to build a network of trust and support to make sure that nobody feels left alone with their own problems and uncertainties. They hold the community together. Through their extensive network new behaviors will ripple through the community.
If you want to learn more about the powerful role of influencers in organizational change, check out our white paper.
Back to the office
But, when you are moving your teams back to the office, apart from managing the people side of change you will need to make some important decisions that have quite an impact on your bottom line.
- Which teams should return first?
- How do we ensure the least disruption to collaboration?
- How much office space should we keep?
- Which teams/people need to work from the office? How do we break up the organization into meaningful communities based on collaborative patterns?
- How frequently should people meet in person? What are the most effective ways to communicate and collaborate in this setup?
ONA can provide data and insights to effectively answer these questions.
Network Science algorithms can be used:
- To identify communities of employees who are actively working together.
- To identify groups that should work together in person for higher productivity.
- To map which connections you need to build, strengthen, nurture or rethink.
- To identify gaps in the on-boarding process.
- To measure team cohesion and integration
Check out how an automated ONA solution helps PwC to improve firmwide collaboration.
Your Influencers are the key for successful change within your organization. With their help you can speed up the transition and map collaboration to make the right decisions on how to move back to the office successfully. Organizational Network Analysis will help you in this journey.
András Vicsek is the co-founder and CEO of Maven7 and OrgMapper.