INTHEBLACK October 2021 - Flipbook - Page 58
F E AT U R E
// O F F I C E P O L I T I C S
“ P O L I T I C A L B E H AV I O U R – W H E T H E R C O N S T R U C T I V E
O R D E S T R U C T I V E – H AS T O B E M U C H M O R E D E L I B E R AT E
N O W. . . I N A V I R T U A L O F F I C E , I T ’ S I M P O S S I B L E T O J U S T
H AV E A C AS U A L C H AT AT T H E WAT E R C O O L E R O R E V E N
JUST SWING BY SOMEONE’S DESK WITHOUT AN
A P P O I N T M E N T, O R R U N I N T O S O M E O N E ‘ BY C H A N C E ’.”
DR JESSE OLSEN, UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE
Above: Mark LeBusque,
workplace culture consultant
58 ITB October 2021
With more people working remotely, or at least
coming into the office less often, fragmentation is a
risk as opportunities for face-to-face team building
lessen. There is also the risk of cliques and factions
forming, pitting office-based employees against
How can organisations and managers bridge these
potentially fractious gaps in workplace culture?
Dr Jesse Olsen, senior lecturer in management
at the University of Melbourne, says that, before
the pandemic, remote workers were often excluded
from social activities and professional opportunities.
While we may see this continue in some
workplaces, he hopes the pandemic experience of
working from home will make people, especially
managers, more thoughtful about building inclusive
“Some of these people – who may have been
sceptics before – will realise that working remotely
can actually work, and they may even personally
adopt remote work for the longer term, at least on
a part-time basis.
“And even for many of those who have decided
to return to the office and resume business as usual,
I think they’ll have a new appreciation for remote
work, and I’m hoping it has created a new respect
for their remote colleagues.”
Olsen says formal HR policies and practices that
support remote work will be crucial to building
healthy and inclusive workplace cultures and avoiding
divisions between office-based and remote workers.
“We would want to make sure that the
organisation leaders are also empowered to work this
way if they want to. Organisations could offer a mix
of face-to-face and virtual social activities. Managers
should systematically consider both remote workers
and on-site workers for professional development
opportunities, promotions, etc.
“With this whole experience under our belts, we
should feel more confident and comfortable with
leveraging advancements in videoconferencing
technology to maximise our experience – our human
interactions – with remote colleagues.”
For the moment at least, the ongoing shift to
a hybrid workplace should serve as an equaliser
in terms of office politics, Olsen says.
“Political behaviour – whether constructive or
destructive – has to be much more deliberate now.
You have to actually schedule a meeting, send an
email or make a phone call. In a virtual office, it’s
impossible to just have a casual chat at the water
cooler or even just swing by someone’s desk without
an appointment, or run into someone ‘by chance’.
The ‘boys’ clubs’ can’t talk shop in the men’s room,