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21st Century Work Life and leading remote teams

Brought to you by Virtual not Distant, the 21st Century Work Life podcast looks at leading remote teams, online collaboration and working in distributed organisations.

Join Pilar Orti, guests & co-hosts as they shine the spotlight on the most relevant themes and news relevant to the modern knowledge worker.

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Mar 5, 2020

This is Virtual Not Distant's third podcast episode in our special series with ShieldGEO, and you can catch the first and second one if you missed them (and subscribe to them in our main feed wherever you get your podcast).  

We’re thrilled with the feedback received on this series from our listeners, including from many of our previous guests (and Pilar’s mum :-) ). We love the way it’s helping us think about the way podcasts themselves build connection, so we’ll return to that theme very soon.

But today, our guest host Bree Caggiati explores what happens when we find ourselves disconnected, from the people we work with and the work we’re doing?

Dr Julianne Hold-Lunstad reminded us that humans have evolved to be social animals, and that kind of collectiveness has helped us survive - so loneliness is a similar biological drive to hunger or pain, we crave its resolution. 

But we don’t always follow our best biological imperatives, and Brian Rhea talks about how easy it is as an introvert to avoid meetings and encounters when inconvenient, and therefore to avoid investing in the networks that can support you when you really need it. And Marcus Wermuth reminds us that we all need different levels of interaction with others anyway, especially when it competes head to head with focused working time.

Collaboration promotes creativity, Julianne points out, so it’s worth all of us being aware of its value in terms of our output as well as our mood and well-being. And Richard MacKinnon agrees, that we should not see social contact as subtracting from productivity in a zero-sum game - instead, it’s an important investment in the success and performance of the team as a whole. He reminds us that feelings of loneliness have very little to do with actually being alone - instead it’s all about the perceptions of the quality of relationships and the social connections we have, and it has a direct impact on the engagement of the whole team.

ShieldGEO’s Tim Burgess agrees, and has that employee engagement builds commitment which helps overcome the inevitable bad days and bumps in the road that we all experience at work. And when you work from home in particular, bad days and bad moods can do more extended psychological damage, with the absence of the decompression buffer zone a commute represents. Emotional contagion can impact on your household and community too, spreading ripples outward in unexpected directions.

Julianne’s research has added to the growing evidence that our relationships influence our emotional well-being, but also affect our physical health - a connection which is often poorly recognised and understood. More socially connected people actually live longer, on average, and loneliness has similar mortality risk factors to obesity and air pollution.

ONS data suggests that 2.4m UK adults suffer from chronic loneliness, so we need to deal with this on a societal level, not least as it has measurable economic costs.

So, the next episode in this series (21st Century Work Life episode 227, releasing on 19th March 2020), will start exploring some of the remedies and strategies to try and fix this problem, which goes way beyond the remote work sphere.

But we’d love to know what you think about these vital issues, and anything else. Please contact us, or you can tweet Virtual Not Distant, or Pilar and Maya directly, with any of your thoughts and ideas.