What do you miss the most when working from home?

As working-from-home became a new normal, remote workers are recognizing the loss of in-person interactions at the office. Discover how the team at ING regains bonding from their radically unusual Zoom meeting enabled by WeQ, the meeting add-on software that re-invents feedback.

Meeting rooms, coffee corner, and elevators. They are remained empty in 2021. Whereas teams are buzzing at digital spaces to continue running their business as usual. Meetings are hosted in Zoom or Microsoft Teams, whiteboarding sessions are done with a help of Miro or Mural board. In fact during the pandemic, home-workers self-reported that they are happier than working at the office. Furthermore, the empty office is better for the business. In a large study involving 2.500 employees, remote work is proved to enhance the firm’s productivity by 13%, according to Professor Bloom at Standford University.

A bigger challenge comes from an unexpected corner. A lack of social contacts exposes a mental health risk. Certain profiles are more vulnerable than others such as single, young, new-hire, expat, and extrovert professionals. As video meetings are dissatisfying the many, a new term is coined: "Zoom Fatigue".

One reason is that there is no good alternative that substitutes our natural, spontaneous social interactions with people in proximity. Companies get inventive as they arranged a range of virtual social activities from a pub quiz to yoga sessions to drawing workshops. However, there's a doubt whether those company parties (even a face-to-face version) offer a chance to connect people. "People turned up during the hard lock-down period but when the lockdown was eased and the weather got better, no one showed up at our virtual pub-quiz", says Katherine Bustos, agile coach at TomTom. In fact, her observation is backed by the research conducted by Jane Dutton, the pioneer of high-quality connection at the University of Michigan. She says that company parties rarely build bonding. Because interactions during such gatherings do not break the "social bubble" where the same people talking about things that they know already. Then how does quality, genuine connection differ from those superficial ones? Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist stressed key ingredients of creating a high-quality connection: one-on-one interaction over a large group setting, a conversation that discovers uncommon commonality, which involves asking open-ended questions and self-disclosure.

Savvy people managers know these insights from the experience. They understand that investing in relationships and bonding will boost performance in the long-term. Zoom can strike up a meeting, but a video meeting doesn't automatically deliver bonding. There's no popular out-of-the-shelf solution proven to create a high-quality connection, yet.

Bernie Pinnola got intrigued when she learned about the WeQ Session as it promises to create a psychologically safe space where a team can open up and give and receive feedback. As a leading agile coach at ING, she is a big fan of feedback and championing to foster a feedback culture in the organization.

Bart Bouwers, WeQ Certified Master Coach at Xebia facilitated the session by hooking up the WeQ Software and Microsoft Teams. The add-on software switches the neutral settings of video meetings — Bernie's team chooses two modules: the first bit focuses on giving praise and the second part drives constructive feedback. During the meeting, the team played a ranking game that identifies a set of strengths and weaknesses each individual possesses. Based on that data, the app picks up a few conversation topics, tailored to the individuals' unique profile. The biased settings influence not only the content of conversation but also the dynamics of interaction. Every participant enjoys equal turn-taking in conversation, which invites those more silent, introverted members to speak up as much as the others.

WeQ Software provides an effective mechanism to spark positive feedback communication in a group.

"As an agile coach, I believed there should be a better way of doing feedback. Unfortunately, feedback scares people off, so they avoid it. Surprisingly, during our WeQ Session, I experienced the opposite: it opens us up, changes the dynamics thanks to the mechanisms embedded in the WeQ tool" says Bernie Pinnola.

As the digital workplace becomes more mature, remote workers understand how collaboration software can augment human interactions for the better. WeQ is committed to meet the demand for improving employee's feedback, communication, relationships, and happiness.

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