June 7, 2023


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The limits of hybrid work and digital tools

The pressure on managers is not new. For a long time, they have been under the injunction to “perform”, to transform to meet customer requirements, to innovate, to remain competitive in a complex and changing world, while keeping employees engaged and, if possible, happy at work. .

If the tools are not lacking to help them in their tasks, they sometimes become a source of stress or even poor performance.

Réunionite: “Sorry, I’m continuing”

Declining an “invitation” (mild euphemism for “convocation”) to a meeting remains taboo since digital tools allow you to connect anywhere and anytime. “Sorry, I’m going on,” we hear most often in the workplace.

The inflation in the number of “guests” to virtual meetings is no longer surprising, “since the tools allow it”. Dozens of people – in a hybrid organization, present on site or remotely – come together in this way, each doing something completely different elsewhere (social laziness obliges) and inducing a completely questionable productivity.

In a burst of lucidity, some managers try to treat “meetingitis” acute thanks to the “reunionists”, experts generally not devoid of humor whose books and coordinates are exchanged including in the executive committees (comex) and management committees (codir).

Juggling with the “pastilles”

The notifications of all kinds generated by the messaging tools are added to the other interruptions in the work, forcing everyone to work faster. Studies attest to a significant increase in stress, frustration, pressure and effort as soon as the work break exceeds 20 minutes.

To limit costly interruptions – often urgent but not always important -, managers create “white zones” (tight to notifications) in order to advance the substantive work. To do this, juggling the green, red or “no entry” “dots” on collaborative tools is essential, and so much the worse for the peak of anxiety when reopening the messaging system.

Outdoor “wanderings”

Moreover, if digital tools facilitate collaboration between people and allow, for example, better sharing of information, creativity falters when teams use them, according to a study by Melanie S. Brucks from Columbia Business School and Jonathan Levav from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Ideas are fewer and of lower quality at a distance, which causes damage to the company, especially in terms of value creation.

In order to encourage creativity and exchanges, some managers organize outdoor “wanderings” with their teams. These walks give the space and the time necessary for real conversations to take place and for “full” communication, including non-verbal communication.

Performance and health issues

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize in Economics 2002, indicates that we think with our body, and not just with our brain (“You think with your body, not with your brain”). Elon Musk himself saw fit to call his teams back to the office by requiring a physical presence at least 40 hours a week.

Difficult to escape a clarification with the teams on the right place of digital tools. Badly or too much used, they cause suffering, even generate conditions of poor performance.

All the difficulty lies in the consistency of the rules in force throughout the organization, up to its highest level.

Salvation will undoubtedly come from the new generations, skilled with digital, and less inclined to engage body and soul in too time-consuming professional lives. It is a performance and health issue for everyone.