The remote workplace shouldn’t be just “fine” … we were sold on a much grander vision than that!

It feels like an eternity ago, but I remember when my friends were actually excited about remote work — about waking up 5 minutes before their first meeting, joining company formals in their pajamas, and skipping hours-long commutes. But a year into the pandemic, it’s clear that that rosy image was far from reality. 

People told me:

“Remote work is fine, but I feel disconnected from my team.”
“Remote work is fine, but I miss running into my coworkers over lunch break.”
“Remote work is fine, but I can’t really maintain a good work-life balance anymore.”

Are these all just small gripes? Maybe. At least, I thought so at first, but then it hit me when one of my friends, said something I’d been struggling to articulate for months:

“We were promised flying cars, and all we got was this?”

This put it all into perspective for me. The remote workplace shouldn’t be just “fine” … we were sold on a much grander vision than that! From the beginning, remote work has been imagined as a magical and transformative endeavor, one that allows employees to live where they want and how they want, to structure their life and schedule on their own terms, to get more done and be less distracted. If remote work doesn’t live up to these expectations, if it’s not clearly and obviously better than commuting to the same boring office every day and working 9-5 at your desk, then the remote workplace dream has failed.

And right now, remote work is not living up to people’s expectations: they are less happy with their work, and they want *more*. Stats below the jump:

Employee Happiness Is Taking a Toll

When the pandemic rolled around, companies had no choice but to make-do with pre-pandemic communication tools. They had a very short time, but a lot at stake to have their employees continue to work remotely without interruption. And yes, work was not interrupted. But at what cost? What many companies neglected to think about was how well these tools would be able to support the sense of connectedness and teamwork within the company. In other words, were online communication tools human enough to replicate the in-office vibe employees were used to? 

For many people, the answer is no. Indeed, the past year saw a significant decline in employee motivation and spikes in overall stress levels. Many reasons were cited for this decline in employee wellbeing. Some of these reasons this survey from Digital points to are the lack of social interactions with coworkers, the abundance of distractions at home, and missing some sort of structure for a normal workplace. 

Employees recognize the benefits. But they want MORE

While noticing the challenges that come with remote work, employees are also conscious about the benefits. About half of respondents to this survey by FlexJobs reported that they were able to maintain or even improve their work productivity during remote work. Over 70% said they enjoyed the lack of commuting costs, and that the additional time they had on their hands allowed them to spend more time with friends and family. 

But… do these additional benefits balance out the concept of Zoom fatigue? 

Zoom Fatigue was quick to become a keyword that now has its own Wikipedia page. While video conferencing tools like Zoom were initially the best option out there to tackle the big transition to remote work, employees started noticing how these tools weren’t equipped enough to address their comprehensive set of needs. Many studies point to how draining video calls can be and how Zoom fatigue has become one of the leading causes of employee burnout. Why? 

  • Employees feel current video call tools don’t resemble in-person meetings, so they miss out on key non-verbal communication perks such as facial expressions, toning, gestures, and more. 
  • Remember when you used to run into a fellow employee in the hall, or on the way to the water fountain? Who can forget the “Hey, do you have a minute?” chats. Well, turns out these momentary run-ins or quick catch ups were extremely helpful in enhancing creativity and problem solving for employees as it alleviates their cognitive load. Conversely, the fact that these interactions were absent in remote work settings have shown to increase the cognitive load of employees. 
  • Current tools fail to capture the natural rhythm of face-to-face interaction, with occasional silence and other natural components. Background noise, turning microphones or cameras on and off, lack of continuous connections can create many interruptions and get in the way of the smooth flow of the meeting. 

The bottom line is: office interactions actually represented important rituals we truly depended on without fully realizing it. Without the social interaction, creative exchange, and psychological relief employees enjoyed in the office, employee well-being is suffering. 

Pre-pandemic tools weren’t designed for this. So we built Nooks

Current communication tools cannot recreate normal, natural, and real human interactions at the office. That is where Nooks comes in; at Nooks, we are building a faster, more human way to work. Communication in the Nooks virtual office enables impromptu and informal interactions that closely resemble office run-ins. For example: : 

  • Rather than having to schedule formal meetings in each others’ calendars, simply drop by someone’s desk to ask them a question. This feature has helped clear a lot of our users’ calendars from unnecessary meetings.
  • Having a lunch break. Join the lunch break room where your co-workers can meet you as they have their lunch as well.
  • As you are coworking, seamlessly change the vibe of your room with new backgrounds, music, and more. Imagine being connected to the office aux to set the vibes. 
  • Remember putting yourself off mute just to say a half-hearted “Hahaha”; at Nooks, you can click the clap, or thumbs up emoji for an immediate reaction. 
  • Looking to have a side conversation with your favorite co-worker; you can use our “whisper” future to have a 1-1 with them during the meeting. 

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