In this new virtual hybrid online world, we’re having to adapt, pivot, and connect with people in a way we’ve never had to do before. Although we have been at it now for a year we are still learning, aren’t we, as it is ever changing. It’s unprecedented. According to the article The Work-From-Home Shift Shocked Companies—Now They’re Learning Its Lessons from the Wall Street Journal, a survey conducted of corporate leaders found that 82% plan to continue to allow remote work for at least part of the time while 47% said they plan to allow it full-time. Basically, remote work is here to stay in one form or another. With it are some lessons we have all had to learn from remote work. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned in the last several months; especially in client and team meetings, board meetings, virtual classroom webinars, and even conferences; all being held online through Zoom, Teams, or Google Hangout.
You have to be prepared.
More prepared than normal. Not only prepared to deliver your presentation or the information, but prepared for Plan B. If the technology on your end or your clients end fails you or isn’t working as it’s designed to do or that you anticipated it would, you need to be prepared. Communicate clearly; if you get disconnected, make sure you’ve communicated what actions to take. That way everyone in the class or meeting knows what Plan B is. You also have to be prepared for more time. It seems to take more time. I have been constantly running late for the last several months, and I usually run late anyway, so now I’m even later than before.
You need to schedule yourself more time.
It feels like you can go from one meeting to the next, so you don’t build yourself enough buffer time in between. Before, you had travel time to get from one meeting to the other, time to grab a snack or a bathroom break. Now your travel is really just turning off one meeting and turning on another. You still need that time in between. You need to build in time for bio breaks, for snacks, to switch technology, or just time away from the screen in general because your brain has literally turned off from so much screen time. I have learned that when you are juggling so many tasks, technology and other things, everything just takes more time. And finally, if you are a Monochronic or Polychronic give yourself and others grace in regards to time.
Not taking into account the zoom fatigue.
The zoom fatigue is real. The screen time fatigue is real. This is causing people to lose focus, be disengaged, uninterested or appear uninterested. In an article from Forbes, Overcoming Zoom Fatigue, they talk about some reasons why zoom fatigue tires us out, such as constantly being on display and a higher cognitive load. So make sure you are patient enough to give those time to unmute or mute, to get connected or disconnected, or reconnected for that matter. I find myself hearing, “Can you repeat that?” often. So the willingness to repeat or rephrase as needed is helpful. Whether we’re working through frozen video screens and broken audio, asking for clarification, and awkward silences; it can all contribute to fatigue. I can see your lips moving “I think you are muted.” or the question, “Are you frozen?” can become almost a mainstay in every meeting. All really contributing factors to our learning how to give, have more patience, and to give more grace as we have these meetings. All the while, we’re looking for unique ways to connect with people, to find common ground, to have those water cooler conversations, and short dialog to connect so that we can still have the human experience and the relationship building experience that we all so long for. Don’t forget all this takes more time. So be sure you are scheduling time away from the screen. I have tried walking during my meetings where I can call in and walk outside versus sitting at my computer which has really helped with my focus and creativity as well as lessened the fatigue factor.
It’s actually not easier and doesn’t take less time to do these virtual events.
Organizations that are event driven are trying to keep things as normal as possible by scheduling virtual events. The perception is that this will be the “easiest way” when in reality it adds a layer of complexity. It can actually take more time due to the increase in preparation time. The time to set up the technology, test it to make sure everything works. It is actually more time than what you would do for just about any in person meeting. There’s more things that you prep for; the impromptu, the what if‘s, for the best and worst case scenarios. So while it may seem like just working from home or working virtually or just taking online classes is the easier route, we find out that we have to be better communicators. We have to learn how to communicate more efficiently through not only text but our language that we are using audibly. We don’t have the luxury of facial expressions and body language for reading the room like we do for in person meetings. So keeping low context and high context cultures in mind will be helpful to a successful outcome.
Many people were not prepared for the work from home grind.
Understanding that it’s hard to multitask and be 100% committed to what you’re doing. It’s hard to juggle the kids at home to kids back in school, restaurants open to restaurants not open, office open, office not open, masks on, masks off, it’s a challenge for everyone. We’re also having to navigate when we’re at work or when we’re at home. If we’re not technically going to a location and punching a clock, it feels like we’re at work all the time or it feels like we’re at home all the time and we aren’t getting a break. Our time management skills are being tested because no matter how well you plan your time, if you have kids or pets or a significant other, you will be interrupted and then you’ll have to figure out where you were before the interruption. Which leads to longer work times. Longer work times will most likely lead to more interruptions and the cycle repeats, leaving us stressed and without breaks. So there is potential for a very short fuse for those we care about.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, work from home or remote work is here to stay. It is working well for some and failing miserably for others. In another article from Forbes, they mention a survey which showed that 97% of employees don’t want to return to the office full-time, but rather, they want to have some flexibility between where they work. It’s clear that working from home is no longer going to be temporary – we need to make our spaces comfortable for our mind, body, and spirit; if we want to continue to be innovative and creative. In next month’s blog, we’ll talk about working from home and workspaces. We’ll share with you some of our team’s workspaces and what they said they feel makes a good workspace for them. If remote work is here to stay, the kitchen table and makeshift office on the porch most likely won’t do long term.
So I hope you’re taking very good care. Exercising patience, giving lots of grace, planning extra time for your preparation, planning for extra time to go from one meeting to the next, taking time for self-care, getting fresh air even if that means 30 seconds in the arctic blast or humidity. We need to start taking time to look for the sun, the moon, the stars, connecting back with nature in any way you can. Remembering that we’re all just here doing the best we can with what we have.
Take very good care.