“‘May you live in interesting times,’ -that quote used to feel about new hope but now it just feels like a threat.” 

My colleague said that lightly on an internal ZOOM call last week. It was at the beginning of the meeting when each attendee joins and marvels at being able to make small talk with an actual human. Even after all these months, it seems our conversations continue to be based around how truly odd our daily lives feel compared to ‘before-times’. 

Perhaps they are “odd” but there’s an upside worth considering.  

We’re all working in virtual teams, interfacing only on virtual calls, and yet business has become more personal and humanized than ever before. Our video calls provide us with a unique glimpse into the lives of our colleagues and customers outside of their business persona –their homes, décor, pets, kids and spouses who often make a cameo in the background like a magical glimpse of Big Foot striding across the wilderness. These truly are interesting times. 

For many, this has been their first experience with remote working or managing a remote team. For our company, it wasn’t too much of a departure as we’ve been fully remote for the past 6 years, so we were well established to continue to be so. However, these interesting times brought our usually in-office spouses or housemates into our shared working space along with our children. It’s a combination that seems to be appreciated most by our pets who think every day is a weekend. 

These interesting times have proven to non-believers that business can be conducted successfully from a remote location, even with the less-than-ideal home circumstances. In fact, in many cases, it’s proving how much more efficient work can be and has created some admirable disciplines that I hope will continue if / when businesses move back into the office. 

For instance, arduously long meeting agendas have experienced a death-rattle, hopefully never to be revived. It’s rare these days to be able to secure much more than an hour of continuously uninterrupted time with a customer or teammate, so meetings seem to be better organized, more succinct, planned in advance, and started punctually. There’s also a greater willingness to use email or a Slack thread if that will suffice. 

The hours eliminated from commuting to and from work or to and from external meetings have been deposited back into times of business productivity or more time with the family at the end of the day. (The rub to this for me, however, is a significant reduction in my media consumption– as those were the times when I would read a book, listen to a podcast or audiobook, or peruse news and business-related media. I’m still trying to figure where to reincorporate this back into my day.) 

The blurred lines between our work and home environment have also opened managers to sharing a more intimate and empathetic rapport with their teams. I’ve seen managers allow greater flexibility around work hours, as many parents need time with their children during the day or early evening but are more than happy to make up the time once the kids are in bed. There’s also a greater understanding and acceptance of unexpected meeting interruptions, which reduces tension and improves our working relationships. 

These interesting times are not here to stay as change is inevitable. But they have shown how creative, flexible, and resourceful we are at our core. And these attributes will help us adapt, evolve, and thrive in the interesting times ahead of us. 

by Sarah Calkin-Ward, Head of Marketing, WorkReduce

 

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