With the virus, we have all been rocketed, kicking and screaming, into the future of a remote work force. We were headed there anyway. The problem is, we are not evolving into it in a thoughtful and experienced way like we could have done over time. We were forced and accelerated into it, and now we are there. But, are we prepared?
We could for instance, with time and experience, identify and mitigate the short comings, pitfalls, and downright threats to our brand and reputation that come along with a virtual workforce. But no! We were just thrust into it instantly without preparation. Now we are waiting for the other shoe to fall. And that’s going to be a big clunk.
We have lost our ability to socialize, affect peer expectations, guide by example, and provide instant daily oversight and education. All of these and more were possible in the physical office setting. In short, by sending our workforce to work from home, we have inadvertently isolated and insulated them and greatly diminished the interactions that build team spirit.
But it gets worse. Now remote workers are less influenced by their peers and company culture, both of which impact their behavior on your behalf. Whether it’s relationships with customers, other team members, or vendors, your staff’s soft skills or lack of them can hurt communication, cooperation, and even sales.
Why? Because ultimately your customers don’t buy your value proposition so much as they buy your people. Do your customers know, like, and trust your people? Do they feel like they are dealing with a person who empathizes with them and their problems? Do they feel like that person has their best interest at heart?
As we dumb down the jobs with more cut and paste, batch work, and scripts, we may be losing an essential ingredient in customer loyalty, vendor terms, and even workforce loyalty. That ingredient is personalized attention. It’s already becoming clear that the lack of personalized attention is hurting the effectiveness of online education. How long before it effects your bottom line?
Pre-COVID, when folks when to a physical office at a specific time, they went through a routine that actually had a positive effect on their performance and allegiance to your company. The alarm clock, the shower, work clothes, commute, and greetings by coworkers with stories, all reinforced their commitment to your company. Seeing you and your top people there, taking a personal interest in their progress and success, gave each employee a reason to stay with your company.
Watching you and others overcome problems and quickly apply those solutions to their own challenges, helped each member of your staff grow professionally. And even going home at the end of the day and having a physical separation from work gave them a psychological break that actually improved their performance. These benefits are difficult to reproduce online.
This change in workforce can’t help but trickle down to the way your virtual team represents your company. Plus, now with less physical cohesion, your remote folks are more likely to bolt for a few dollars more.
At first many companies will hail the new arrangement as a big savings in overhead, HR issues, and reduced management, but as we run headlong into the brave new world, we will start to notice something is missing, like customer and employee loyalty. And with that goes relationships, the foundation of personalized attention.
The businesses that will survive this sea of change will have to figure out how they can still provide personalized attention to their people, vendors, and customers. They will have to give their people the reasons they need to treat others with the same soft skills, empathy, and respect they witnessed at the office. Good customer service requires good people skills, whether coming from your office setting or from your employees’ home.