Empathy Remotely: What we need to foster to thrive from now on
COVID has been forcing companies to pursue changes in their own organizational structure to accommodate individual needs, and one that must never be avoided is organizing professional and human development within a company. First and foremost, capitalist motivations aside, we all know that each individual’s health is key for a system to function, so those that prefer to stick to old-fashioned models that force in-person interactions – besides obviously cases such as transportation and delivery systems, which are unavoidable – follow an irresponsible path of putting their own capital before people’s survival and well-being. However, it requires much more than simply asking its personnel to operate as if employees’ rooms were their offices in work, demanding actions that ventures can execute to in fact support collaborators’ individual lives and set a background for future prospering actions.
Taking my company as an example, one of the key points of its functions during times of social isolation is to set goals and to foster a culture of continuous improvement. We start off by one simple maximum: if suddenly you cannot contact any other colleague about tasks and deliverables, how would you thrive to keep on providing your best?
The immediate answer would be to foster a company culture of continuous improvement and empathy while each one follows its individual path. At my internship as a digital marketing intern, we have AirTable spreadsheets that list foreseeable milestones and tasks that prepare us for future changes in the company lifetime for a few months, so we all know what we have to learn in the following weeks so that we are able to deliver the pillars of our work. Taking a few experiences as suggestions for how to foster a company’s culture of collaboration, even from an internship position as mine, I have gathered a few notes on how we have pursued change in such a demanding environment in these conditions.
First: Flexibility, collaboration, and empathy
It is easy to assume that all employees will have the same software and hardware to follow their tasks at home, but I doubt all managers even consider some collaborators might now have financial nor infrastructural conditions to provide the same workload as if they were in office. Leaders must consider team members who might struggle to have stable internet connections, stable hardware, and equipment. Otherwise, they will only become profit-driven ventures.
As I still have to exchange my Freshman Babson laptop to a Junior laptop, I am relying on a computer I had since before I started my college degree, so some functions such as video driver and RAM are not as good as they should be, in such a way that I face difficulties in some tasks that require extra processing from my device. My supervisors are totally conscious of that, and for such we share some tasks and I inform them of every glitch I face when performing a task. This way, I honestly feel less frustrated and more capable of providing the expected workload.
Second: Promote teamwork
As an intern, you might feel you are not in the position of suggesting something to your supervisor. But thank me later, you totally need to voice yourself up if you need to express your concerns.
Under my position, I confess I initially felt as if I was now entitled to make suggestions to the operations, but when I voiced my need of connecting with other team members and work together, it felt like work was more efficient than before and our workload seemed more doable. The feeling of loneliness and isolation can be a real problem for remote workers, so make sure you are routinely getting in touch to help alleviate any challenges all of you may be facing, personally and professionally. This can include daily check-ins with individual employees and supervisors, and increase the frequency of team meetings and emails across the company. You can also suggest creating open meetings for people to get together without a specific agenda or goal besides being together.
For now, that is what I have to share and suggest to those who might feel a little overwhelmed during such difficult times. I hope all of you find places where you all belong and can at least feel a minimum amount of satisfaction in doing what you do.