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Reflecting on Today's Workplace Disruption: Love It or Leave It

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

It's been what, about 7 weeks? 7 weeks in today's remote-work, life-juggling environment of "the coronaverse," as my cousin called it the other day.

I bet you have a list of things you really love about it… and an equally long list of things that you'll be happy to leave behind. But don't be too quick about it. While business and communities are looking to get back to "normal," we are facing the likelihood that getting back into the office for many of us will happen later rather than sooner. Companies need time to figure out how to allow folks back into office settings safely. Even should shelter-in-place orders lift in the next few weeks, we will still be juggling school, childcare, wearing masks, forgoing the elevator, eating at our desks and conference calls from our cubes. Yeah, that doesn't sound like the normal I remember, nor one into which I'm eager to shift.

reflecting on covid's workplace disruption; classroom of empty desks

So, as we wrap our brain around hanging out in this remote environment a bit longer, let's catalog a few of the things we love and a couple we don't.

A few things we love:

  • We are more connected than ever before. Happy hour with college buddies you haven't seen in 10 years? Absolutely! Some folks tell me they've attended more happy hours in the last month than ever before. Sláinte! Tips on hosting happy hours are plentiful online. Here's guidance from SHRM (Society for Human Resources). Keeping it clean, people.

  • Learning opportunities abound. Conferences are going virtual and many are free. Some days it's hard to choose between lunchtime webinars. Thank you to the companies that are offering these opportunities. Friends, if you're not taking advantage, don't miss out. This is a unique opportunity for many of us to invest in ourselves.

  • No commute. Usually my commute is maybe 20 minutes, so I am no one to complain. But even I dig pulling up to my PC with a cuppa just before the first call begins. What is it about remote officing that gives me the perception that I have more time in the day? Or maybe I'm more inspired to tackle the running "to do" list? I even ordered bottles and vanilla beans to concoct our own vanilla extract. Poured it up and stashed it away over lunch on Monday. (Here's a good tutorial.) Cooking, domesticity… surely the apocalypse is upon us.

And yet there are plenty of things I hear that we don't love so much. Here are two:

  • The lack of team togetherness & too much screen time. For a while my team talked daily in a 30-minute catch-up each morning. We were like the opening scene in the Brady bunch with the tiled headshots. I loved that, because I actually got to see their faces every single day. That wasn't a norm for me pre-coronaverse. This week they asked if we could scale back to a couple of times a week. (Maybe because I made them play an online Boggle with Friends tournament.) That's fine, too, but I miss seeing them each day. An article on Planet Money shares the challenges of online meetings all day every day. I hadn't thought about it like this - the typical view we have of folks on conference calls is up close and personal. We don't sit that close in face-to-face meetings and if we did, HR would follow us around. It took us approximately 4.7 weeks to get tired of staring at each other's noses and foreheads through the screen for hours on end.

  • Juggling work + teaching + childcare + parenting + domesticity + family time. It's a lot to juggle, and I admire you parents and remote teachers. I was texting my sister the other day towards the end of the "work" day, asking a question with a tag on the end, "How are you guys?" "Just got out of my 5,000th google meeting of the day," she replied. She's a teacher - not a parent-now-teacher - an actual teacher. She's also a parent-now-teacher for my nephew. He didn't care for school too much previous to the coronaverse. He's ready to go back. He shared with my parents that his current teacher is too tough. We talked a lot about work-life balance before the coronaverse. If anything we are talking more now about work-life integration. Here's an article from the Mayo Clinic from June 2018 with advice that is helpful today in regards to our new "work days." Everyone has their own life to juggle. Do yours as best you can, and it's ok.

As I mentioned, my crystal ball does not show all of us heading back at once into office settings. Safety is paramount. Prepare for a slow roll and pause in the juggle of things to make some adjustments to your daily situation so that it works for you. Carve out a nook for a home office. Use it, then stash your PC there when the "work" day is done to transition to family or personal time. Take a lunch break and go for a walk. Keep to a routine each morning. Start new evening rituals to look forward to. I talked to a co-worker whose daughter is learning to drive. They look forward each day to an evening drive, then lessons in a nearby parking lot. Yes, you are juggling a lot. You can do it. Be sure to take care of yourself along the way. As we remind each other in the airline industry, remember to put your own oxygen mask on first before supporting those around you.

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