Increasing numbers of Brits work flexibly – often from home – so, culturally, we need to change the workspace rules and get accustomed to a little less formality in our meetings. And yes, that means our colleagues’ children and pets could well play passing roles in our working lives.
They say you should never work with children or animals. Almost half (45%) of us prefer to work from home, and it’s worth noting that 44% of UK households own a pet. We have seen what happens when children burst into the home office during live TV interviews, but what happens when pets invade your videoconference? What’s the protocol? When is it OK to show your pet off on an internal or client conference call? These are just some of the questions raised when our home becomes our workplace.
Flexible working continues to become the norm as organisations aim to reduce travel and real estate costs, and recruit and retain the best talent. That means that video has become pervasive in the household as we conference each other from our homes. We can’t become less human, but technology can and will become more human within organisations whose eyes are open to the pitfalls and opportunities.
As Jeanne C. Meister put it in The Future Workplace Experience:
“Workers of all generations and cultures will increasingly come to expect a workplace that mirrors their personal lives, one that is transparent, connected, personalised, and offers choices.”
Flexible collaborative working by its own nature requires us to relax our working culture expectations. Should our colleagues wear smart clothes for an internal videoconference or are we comfortable seeing staff in hoodies and apparel that they typically wear around the house?
This is something that we now need to think about: our flexible first impression. If we have a videoconference call, people will inevitably check out what we have in the background and may well discuss your curtains or taste in literature with colleagues.
This may also mean that our colleagues and – depending on their personalities and our relationships with them – our clients and suppliers too, may well see the other major players in our lives: our children and pets.
As the norm changes for the flexible workplace, we need to learn to adapt. We’ll need to be upfront when at home, that you are expecting a parcel, that your toddler could run into the room by mistake or that your dog might start barking.
It can even be a good conversation starter. If you mention your dog, it is nearly always likely that who you are videoconferencing will take an interest and ask questions: “Ah can I see him? How old is he? Can he hear me? Bet he likes you at home, so he has constant attention.”
You get the idea.
I know of Polycom customers who regularly invite their cats on-screen during internal conferences. It makes sense as they’re cat owners and share that common bond. A non-cat person in that environment might not enjoy that situation, so it all depends.
We – HR, participants, the C-suite – can decide the rules of engagement, and often the tone of the conference itself will decide the level of formality. There will be times we need to mute or shut off the video, but if we’re going to bring our work into our homes, then we’re effectively bringing our home into our work.
The challenge for HR departments and directors is to find the flexible and collaborative working culture that works best for their organisation and give their staff the right tools and support to really make it work.
Guest Blog by Sonal Bisht, Head of EMEA corporate communications at Polycom