Aristotle said that speech makes human beings the political animal. He claimed that we are all members of a society because we can communicate with each other in a detailed way. This capacity for collaboration has yielded everything that allows us to live at a comfort level above that afforded by the default state of nature.
Despite the numerous advantages that result from working relationships, not everything is strictly about colosseums and supercomputers. Our social relationships are also of extreme importance. The leisurely passing of the time with friends is just as crucial to our well-being as any team's professional collaborative process. Even the Roman senator Cicero, known for his calculated politicking, took time to write about the value of friendship. Without friends, says Cicero, life would not be worth living.
Healthy relationships with other humans are a requirement for our mental health. In the film Castaway, absent a human companion, the protagonist formed a meaningful friendship with a volleyball. Although a work of fiction, this plot point was based on a solid reality. We all need a Wilson.
The existence of negative consequences that stem from loneliness is not disputed. Loneliness makes us suffer. Idioms abound that attest to the necessity of community (It takes a village to raise a child, No man is an island, There is no 'I' in 'team', etc). In some societies, prisoners are isolated from their fellow convicts as a form of punishment. Human beings are indeed social creatures.
We spend most of our waking hours at our jobs. It makes sense then that we should focus on developing social relationships at our de facto primary residence. Given that such relationships are conducive to well-being, a work environment that facilitates these relationships has an advantage over one that does not.
Enter the Virtual Workplace
All of the obstacles to the development of meaningful social relationships that previously existed in the workplace were amplified by the onset of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost overnight, the challenges of forming and maintaining relationships became immensely more difficult. The resulting loneliness quickly became considered the primary adverse byproduct of society's distancing posture against the virus.
Organizations made use of intranets to serve as the medium through which meetings, collaboration, and individual task accomplishment took place. These intranets, which previously acted as occasional workspaces, quickly and completely replaced the physical office in many cases. Intranets struggled to accommodate the new demand and little thought was given to social considerations in the hectic paradigm shift. Many workers struggled with the resulting tunnel vision and complete evaporation of their real-world friendships.
The Human-centric Intranet
Companies that pivoted to remote work began to host online coffee breaks and happy hours to keep their employees' moods afloat. Outdoor walks and yoga sessions made regular appearances on company calendars and were considered integral to the workday. Even as organizations decided that returning to the office would be acceptable, many found themselves in a permanent remote configuration.
These inclusions are very helpful, but if WFH is here to stay (which it is), these condiments will ultimately prove to be insufficient. In order for sustainable, healthy, and effective remote work to continue, social relationship considerations need to be baked into the design of the intranet itself.
Outings that occur in the physical world are conducive to morale and allow relationships to grow. Such events could be team-building activities like an escape room or something as laid back as a barbecue. Team outings also serve as a beacon of sorts as it gives members something to look forward to. A thoughtful human-centric intranet should have the ability to organize and post events such as these in a seamless way.
Employees should be able to communicate casually even if they can't talk in person with one another. We all love a little low-impact chit-chat to help the hours pass. Blog posts and lightweight forums serve to take the edge off the solitude that accompanies remote work. Such a function replaces the old break room as a place of friendly banter. Here one can write about whatever they wish, whether it be a vacation, a new restaurant, or even a film recommendation. Blog and forum posts are a great way to let the outside world in.
One positive aspect of a healthy relationship with others is that it makes us feel recognized as individuals. The quest for recognition can be a driving force for achievement in our personal and professional lives. An online productivity portal that places importance on social relationships should keep the concept of recognition in mind when designing features. A way to congratulate a colleague or acknowledge an accomplishment would go a long way.
Better Social Relationships at Work with Linchpin Intranet Suite
Seibert Media is passionate about building healthy relationships between work colleagues. New ways for users to collaborate and strengthen their relationships are always being explored. Stock-model online communication will only achieve so much and Seibert Media recognizes that the human dimension is crucial for any collaborative effort to succeed.
The Linchpin Intranet Suite sets out to put the human employee at the center of its ecosystem. Blog posts, event planning, coworker recognition, and other functionality that builds and enhances social relationships are placed at the forefront of the suite's design. See the advantages for yourself!