Hardwired for touch

ALSO: Q4 wisdom // should you hire a community manager?

The above tweet was quoted in Jillian Richardson’s book on community, Unlonely Planet and it really struck me. Touch has already been placed under scrutiny because of #MeToo revelations, then coronavirus happened and our most visceral sense has found itself as our least frequently experienced.

It felt timely that Radio 4 should choose this week to broadcast a short series this week about the importance of touch for humans (available worldwide, episode1, episode 2). The BBC series starts with someone who recounts that he was never hugged as a child when he was raised by traditional grandparents and how meeting his wife changed his life. It’s hard not to be moved by the transformation to his life that he describes.

The show talks about ‘touch hunger’ and how the absence of gentle platonic touch can make us feel isolated. The show commissioned a survey of 40,000 adults asking them their feelings about touch. It reminds us more than anything that touch can be a vivid and enriching experience - provided it comes with permission.

The findings:

  • One of the challenges is that 43% of people feel that touch is no longer permitted in society

  • When asked if they get enough touch in their own lives 54% of people say no

  • people who more touch have higher well being and less loneliness

It’s interesting to spend a moment reflecting on this ourselves. If you’re feeling especially isolated or lonely as you’re working alone, clearly there’s not a lot of practical help in recommending more touch. But understanding this human need can help us diagnose why we might not be feeling fully ‘normal’ - and can maybe help us think about the people ‘in our bubble’ might offer more comfort to us.

As we’re all debating how to make us feel more connected with colleagues, being touch starved may be contributing to our sense of loss.

Modern work is like having homework due everyday: someone quoted the below tweet to me on a call this week. To be honest I think it’s true of modern work full stop.

Bleak but helpful thread about the months ahead (click to read all 10 tweets and the replies). I retweeted this and Maria York sent me this video that teaches you how to cope.

Another thread summarised here (you can click through below to read it), this time from a US remote work firm (and I’m a little cautious of whether it’s just a self-promotion exercise rather than rigorous data). Chris claims to have chatted to 1,000 companies and he’s synthesised a lot of the other remote thinking that’s out there elsewhere:

  • firms will reduce HQ size by 40-60% reflecting remote work 3-4 days a week (and office 1-2)

  • this will allow firms to hire from a wider pool of talent

  • firms are worried that burnout will follow the productivity gains they are witnessing

  • lots of firms are struggling with the idea and implementation of asynchronous work

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LISTEN: the second episode of the Eat Sleep Work Repeat series on community went out this week. The series is an exploration into whether firms will be looking to hire Community Managers - and this week I talked to the head of community at Brandwatch, Abadesi Osunsade. Abadesi gives us clear ideas of how she is helping to building an inclusive sense of belonging at the firm. Next up is a discussion with Casper ter Kuile before Jillian Richardson ends the series.

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Make Work Better is created by Bruce Daisley, workplace culture enthusiast. You can find more about Bruce’s book, podcast and writing at the Eat Sleep Work Repeat website.