Himika Akram reporter
Covid-19 has created a big revolution globally in the sense that it made the companies realize, every job does not require people to come to the office and have a fixed workstation. Flexible working is one of the most common things now in the workplaces, of course digital communication has paved the way further. It gives us a lot better work-life balance.
But what is concerning the experts is, Gen-Zer’s have started entering the job market. Many of them started their full-fledged careers with remote jobs. It is taking away many skills from them, which a worker must have to survive in this extremely competitive world. When you have a working station, you are surrounded by people, you get to see them on day to day basis, you create a bond with them, you dress in a certain way to look professional, and you communicate in a certain way because the workplace is different than the couch of your living room. All these things make you a better communicator.
When you work in a conventional working place, you get to know about the norms, values and etiquette of the company and the people working there. You receive the vital cues that are necessary to work in a collaborative place where network-building is an essential thing. We get to learn things by observing, talking to many people informally and working together in a project being physically present, and making social comparisons to understand what is acceptable and appropriate, and what is not. These aspects make us responsible, wise citizens.
But what happens when you work in a remote environment? It does not matter if you are working sitting comfortably on your couch or on your bed, wearing shorts or pajamas, looking messed up or neat. You need to be in a meeting? Just send a Zoom calendar invitation and then talk sitting behind that 14-inch screen, where your body language is not very visible, perhaps you are not participating at all and biting your nails instead or scrolling through your mobile phone. Face-to-face communication or warmth cannot be replicated online.
In the end, what happens is they gradually become workers lacking in social skills or etiquette. They cannot differentiate between emailing and texting. They cannot figure out the appropriate tone of communication when they are talking or writing to a person. Or when is the appropriate time to call a meeting or what is better in certain scenarios – making a call, authoring an email or sending a text.
Most importantly, it is not very uncommon for some talented Gen-Z people to go unnoticed. Because in an online meeting, as I said earlier, it is difficult to make social comparisons. Hence you cannot gauge who is approachable or accessible; what is appropriate and what is not. Sometimes they get confused, should they voice their concerns or express their ideas without coming off as overenthusiastic or talkative, or are they keeping it to themselves to such an extent that they are being perceived as lazy or dumb?
Conventional working environment has some flaws, but it gives us the opportunity to give presentations standing in front of people, making eye contact with them. It gives us the cross-functional skillsets apart from working on our own selves; which is crucial when you are trying to make strategic decisions for the flourishing of an organization. When they are cocooned by remote world only, how can they grow these skills? Which leads to the question, how can these people be the leaders tomorrow? For a leadership role, you must have certain skills and qualities, which are impossible to acquire in a 100% remote-working setting.
Hence instead of limiting people to flexible work: companies should offer a mixture of both flexible and conventional work settings for the greater interest overall.