HM Insights

What's it all about, Alfie? The importance of human interaction

Stephen Vallance is a member of the HM Connect team at Harper Macleod, supporting high street and rural law firms throughout Scotland. Having set up and sold his own law firm, Stephen has gone on to be an entrepreneur, author, educator and all round guru in the business of law. Throughout lockdown, Stephen took the time to share some insights which could be of value in our businesses and lives …

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If you recognise the song and the film that it opened then we will be of a similar vintage. No prizes for the correct answers but if you haven't listened to it then give Dionne Warwick's classic a play on Spotify as there are many wise words within the lyrics. The point of this; well over the last few months as I've ruminated about how to protect and maintain businesses through these worrying times, I've not fully addressed the human cost that everyone may have been suffering. This was brought home all too clearly recently with the untimely passing of a beloved colleague.

Even in these days of technological marvels, where we can sit at home and transact business remotely, people remain a business' greatest assets and their health is their greatest asset. Zoom and Teams have proven great for simple meetings and the exchange of information. They allow us to keep up to date and chat through challenges and issues. My own experience, however, is that you have to work incredibly hard to have meaningful interactions over these mediums. The etiquette of video conferencing behaviour is still evolving but I've been at several recently where it has been evident that some of the participants were not fully engaged in the conversation and the interaction felt somehow lacking as a result.

Simply put, humans are social animals and, for some, work provides a substantial part of their daily interactions. Working from home may have many advantages (not least the end of the commute) but particularly for those without a meaningful other (and in some cases for those that do) no interaction with work colleagues leaves a large gap.

With people still working from home and likely to be doing so increasingly in the future, are we looking after our own physical and mental health and ensuring that those around us are doing likewise? When we ask colleagues 'how are you doing?' is it just a pleasantry to open a conversation or are we actively looking at them and listening and encouraging them to give an honest answer? Few of us will readily admit when we are struggling and will often leave things until they become acute before addressing them. Likewise emails, WhatsApps and Zooms will never really give us the more subtle indications that all is not well with our colleagues. A simple 'I'm fine' is probably not enough anymore, or at least not without more questioning.

I suppose my message in all of this is a simple one. Look after yourselves and each other. Working remotely is not without its pitfalls.