December 19, 2023
Employees have made it clear that they are keen for flexible working arrangements to stay. In fact, according to the Owl Labs 2023 State of Hybrid Work report, 40 percent of employees would decline a job if they were required to be in the office five days a week. With the festive season in full swing, employees will look to utilise the benefits of flexible working as they return home to their families.
However, business leaders are still keen to maintain productivity amidst the seasonal rush while allowing their team to enjoy the holiday period. There is a balance, and all leaders want this time for their employees to refresh and recharge. It’s therefore important that they consider new approaches to working that can help businesses strike a balance between employee rest and productivity output.
A significant challenge with remote work is proximity bias, where managers are more likely to seek the opinions of those physically present rather than their remote colleagues. Proximity bias is present year-round, and can lead to remote employees feeling undervalued and disconnected from important decision-making processes, with 45 percent of workers concerned that managers view those in the office as harder working and more trustworthy than their remote counterparts. To overcome this bias, managers need to value input from remote team members equally and recognise the unique perspectives they bring to the table. This goes for the festive period too.
It’s crucial to dispel the belief that fewer face-to-face interactions automatically result in lower productivity. In reality, productivity is not determined solely by physical presence but by the quality of collaboration and communication among team members. Overcoming proximity bias requires intentional effort to incorporate remote employees into activities and decision-making processes. Leveraging collaborative tools and technology can bridge the gap to create a more inclusive and productive remote work environment.
Revising working approaches
Alongside utilising the right workplace tools, businesses should reassess work strategies to maintain or increase productivity output during the festive season, and even beyond. Communicating ownership over tasks and ensuring effective briefings and handovers are in place is key. By understanding each employee’s skills and preferences, managers can ensure that the right person is working on the right task, maximising efficiency and output.
Additionally, establishing clear deadlines and understanding realistic workloads prior to the holiday period can help prevent employee burnout. The festive season often brings a surge of work as businesses aim to wrap up projects before the year-end. By managing expectations and workloads effectively, employees can avoid feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. This proactive approach allows for a smoother transition into the holiday break and ensures that employees return in the new year feeling refreshed, productive and motivated.
Combating the seasonal wrap-up rush
As some companies allow their employees to take the Christmas week off, the days leading up to the break can often feel chaotic and rushed, especially in a remote work setting. This is where the importance of reliable and efficient technology becomes evident. According to Owl Labs’ research, 72 percent of UK employees consider good tech important to their working life.
Leveraging AI tools can help alleviate the pressure during the seasonal “wrap-up rush” by automating certain tasks and streamlining workflows. For example, AI-powered tools can attend meetings on behalf of employees and take notes, like the Otter.ai meeting note tool. This frees up valuable time that can be dedicated to more time consuming activities. This not only allows employees to focus on pressing tasks but also ensures that everyone remains informed about the discussions and decisions made during the meeting.
Furthermore, utilising technology-enabled meeting tools can facilitate better communication and collaboration among team members, especially during high-pressure periods. Virtual meeting platforms, project management tools and instant messaging applications provide avenues for remote workers to stay connected, clarify tasks and seek assistance when needed. By leveraging technology, businesses can ensure that tasks are clearly understood, completed efficiently and deadlines are met, reducing stress and improving overall productivity.
As businesses continue to embrace flexible working arrangements, addressing proximity bias remains a crucial challenge in 2024. However, by revising their approach to tasks and projects and adopting a holistic view of remote employees, businesses can create a more inclusive work environment where all team members are valued and heard. Additionally, leveraging the right tech tools is essential to ensuring productivity and employee satisfaction, especially during the busy festive season.
Frank Weishaupt is CEO of Owl Labs, the first company to build 360-degree video conferencing solutions for hybrid organisations, including the award-winning Meeting Owl Pro. Frank was previously SVP of Sales at CarGurus and played an instrumental role in the company’s growth, leading to a successful IPO. Prior to joining CarGurus, he served as Chief Operating Officer at Jumptap, leading to an acquisition by Millennial Media and AOL. He has also held executive roles at Yahoo! and Criteo. Frank holds a degree in engineering from Northeastern University and he is based in Boston.