While New Zealanders are used to working from home by now, the latest snap lockdown has brought back some key learnings from the upheaval of last year, particularly when it comes to keeping up communication and maintaining company culture.
Chris Lamers, CEO of non-bank lender FlexiGroup NZ, says that while the sector has adapted well to remote working, maintaining relationships has certainly become more difficult than it was before, and the learning process is still ongoing.
“Working from home certainly doesn’t solve everything, and some of those more difficult discussions just don’t work on video calls,” Lamers commented.
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“What we saw through the first three to four weeks of the April 2020 lockdown was that engagement and effort lifted quite significantly. People saw the problem, ran towards it and worked really hard over long hours - but then over time, some of those relationships started to break down a little bit because you weren’t having those daily conversations with people, you were just going from video call to video call. Culture also became much harder to build and maintain.”
Lamers says that without the daily, in-person contact that comes with an office environment, collaborative efforts can become particularly difficult. He says that for some people, working from home is unlikely to become any easier - and that’s where having the odd virtual drink can become more helpful than you might expect.
“Our team wasn’t sitting next to each other day by day, so comms became harder and a lot more important,” Lamers said.
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“Collaboration sessions are also much harder over video call, as you don’t have the same kind of energy as you do when you have people together in a room.”
“We still find it harder than it used to be,” he added.
“But some of the people I have the closest working relationships with now, I’ve never met. Building that relationship takes real, significant effort, and you do need to have your times where you bring some fun into it and have your virtual drink - as naff as it sounds, it does help.”