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WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT


Managing Remote Work and Workers S


enior living communities are a “high- touch” environment. Care just can’t be done from a safe remove.


But among those who support the indus-


try, from the software developers to accoun- tants to scientists to digital sales experts, and more—those who can work remotely are being encouraged to do so. And this sets up an entirely different set of challenges. Even when it’s safe to open up the office


buildings, many have decided that remote work is here to stay. The Society of Hu- man Resource Management quotes a PwC survey that 72 percent of workers would like to work remotely at least two days a week—and a third of them said “they'd prefer never to go to the office.” Through the pandemic, remote workers


and their managers have discovered some unexpected difficulties and some unexpect- ed benefits—and communications and hu- man resources experts have developed many tips and concepts to help make it work.


“Zoom fatigue” is real Virtual meetings and education seemed like the natural solution to the sudden need to work remotely. But just as some residents discovered as they learned Zoom and Face- Time, it’s not as easy as simply mastering the technology. It’s a different type of inter- action, and it needs different sets of skills— and it can be demanding in a different way. There are legitimate physical and neuro-


logical reasons why. For instance, a study in Neuroimage journal found that in a com- parison of real, live, face-to-face interaction and interacting with a recorded image, the live interaction won. It generated greater brain activation in the areas also associated with social cognition and reward—so our brains think live interaction in itself is a kind


of reward. Take away the reward, and our brains know something’s missing. “A lot of people find technology a little bit draining,” says William Chopik, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University. “Zoom and virtual meetings are not as fun as personal ones.” Beyond the brain issue above, there


are several other reasons for this, Chopik says. “When you're talking to someone on- line, you miss out on a ton of non-verbal things—you feel out of synch with someone. The interaction feels like it's more work.” For example, in person you might see


subtle signals in body position when a per- son’s becoming annoyed or negative. But the small screen doesn’t reveal these. We’re working harder because we’re both trying to catch the signals we’re accustomed to seeing, and because we miss out on signals, so communication gets more difficult. This is one reason for the rise in interrup-


26 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021


tions that many people working remotely have noticed and bemoaned—the conver- sational rhythm is off, resulting in a flood of voices chiming in alternating with awkward pauses (and that’s not even taking into ac- count the issue of forgetting to unmute). “The turn-taking gets disrupted,” Chopik


says. “In person, it’s a more fluid, natural, spontaneous.” “There’s also another theory: Having to


look at yourself is pretty distracting. You’re always monitoring how you look” on some level, Chopik says.


Culture matters Another difficulty in remote work comes from the lack of subtle support for common mission, values, and culture. Away from the environment where these are reinforced, their practice and impact can start to fade. And losing a sense of purpose can be a one- way ticket to disengagement.


Demands New Skills, New Techniques By Sara Wildberger


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