Navigating a year unlike any other

As I sit here in my home office, during the workday and practically in pajamas (you are too, don’t judge, we’re all pairing flannel pants with dress shirts), it occurs to me we are now one transformative year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us have done more in this year than we ever imagined we could. We thought we’d be home for a few weeks juggling an alternate life, and a year later that alternate life seems to have taken over.

Finally, we’ve turned a corner. By the time you read this post, we’ll be one step closer to face-to-face interactions – that is, assuming your office hasn’t decided to go virtual permanently. It really is remarkable just how much the way we approach our jobs has changed in the last year.

Which room in the house becomes the office?

When we first heard we’d be going remote in the early days of the pandemic, I remember thinking this new mode of working from home would likely last for a couple of weeks, tops. I was walking around the house simply looking for a place to work, and privacy was all but impossible with young children and a wife at home, who was also vying for a spot to call her new home office.

I went from working nearly two weeks in an unfinished basement to the bedroom for four months to finally diving in and refinishing the basement – two offices, to be exact – and here I still am. You all know what I’m talking about. While the lack of commute and more time with family is awesome, the lack of face-to-face contact with colleagues is not so much. We’ve made the best of it and we’ve actually found some positives – we’ve become more mindful of personal and professional connections.

My wife and I continue taking turns doing our jobs and caring for the children remotely. Many of you are familiar with this story – and can possibly substitute the young children scenario for elderly parents. Remote work has become the new way of getting our jobs done, and without video-conferencing platforms like Webex, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, it would have been virtually impossible.

(Virtually) face-to-face

In the early days of the pandemic, virtual meetings seemed like an exciting prospect – it was the best way to keep up relationships with our co-workers, families and friends. It did lead to an “always on” mentality, but after some behavioral and habit adjustments, many people took this new-found professional and personal life fusion in stride. They’re spending more time with their families…sometimes while taking virtual meetings!

If you’re a manager, I hope you’ve taken some time in the past few months to help your teams overcome virtual meeting fatigue – and re-claim on-camera time as a positive experience. Schedule some time once or twice a week that no one has to get dressed up for, or has to worry about running a PowerPoint on screen. Just use it as a chance to catch up with your co-workers, to share your wins for the week, or recommendations for which show to watch next. It can help you get back to the sense of community we had pre-pandemic.

Another helpful hint for those times when you’re on “stage:” I’ve gotten into the habit of turning off self-view because it’s a tad distracting looking at myself while meeting with others (likely because I resemble a Spartan-esque Gerard Butler) – you can’t see yourself in the mirror when you’re in the meeting room, so don’t let your camera psych you out when you’re virtual. Try it out if you haven’t already.

I offered a few other tips for making the most of your virtual meeting platforms in an earlier blog – check them out here.

We adapted our surroundings, behaviors, and work weeks – what’s next?

I think many of us crave the in-person, face-to-face collaborative environments we had before March 2020. I know our staff is looking forward to getting back in the office, where they can finally be with their co-workers at RoomReady face-to-face.

Of course, it’s unlikely we’ll ever go back completely to the way things were before COVID-19. Hybrid meetings, with employees in the meeting room, at their desks or at home will likely be a mainstay for most companies. We’ll need to take a “one remote, all remote” approach to ensure everyone participating in a meeting has an equal, positive experience. The RoomReady team will be talking more about how to address these challenges in our blogs over the coming months.

Until that time, stay safe! I can’t wait to see you once again – whether virtually or live and in person, like the good ‘ole days.

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