Re-learning things after the pandemic

After working remotely for 15 months, we recently returned to the office, albeit for only two days per week for most team members. While it has been wonderful to work together in the same room again, I could definitely sense that it will take some adjustment. I used to not work remotely at all before the pandemic, and after being back in the office for three days in a row, I felt a tad bit fatigued. In addition to more drastic changes, such as having to make your way through traffic or arranging pet sitters, there are little things that we have to get used to again. Here are a few examples.

Watching your body language

If you’re not in the same physical space with your co-workers, all you have to do is watch your facial expression when you’re in a Zoom meeting. It’s a different ballgame when you’re in the office. If you want to exemplify your company values, your body language plays a very important role. If you’re slouching, frowning, making faces, or even making a snide comment under your breath, chances are that your team members will notice. Self-awareness levels will need to be raised in a post pandemic world. 

Reading non verbal communication

Similarly, since you’re exposed to much more non-verbal communication than when you were when confined to a few video calls, you may not be used to observing and interpreting non verbal communication as much anymore. Since it’s a vital part of teamwork and emotional intelligence, it is worth the investment in retraining yourself. 

Less typing, more talking

One of the most challenging things during COVID was the often unrealistic expectation that we could all communicate in an asynchronous way. To be frank, while this may sound appealing, it is simply not the ideal way to deliver the best service to your fellow team members, and, as a result, to your customers. There’s no denying the fact that typing a message takes longer than talking to someone directly. A lot of folks may have gotten into the mode of preferring written communication, and in some cases, they may even get annoyed or startled if you walk up to them to ask a question, so be sure to talk about this challenge and hit the reset button when it comes to communication.

Less multi-tasking

Certainly, you’ve experienced this before: you’re in a video meeting, and it is obvious that someone is working on something else and not paying full attention. Or you may have been guilty of multi-tasking yourself. You can make a case that this has been one of the biggest downsides of the remote work arrangement during the pandemic. It may help to openly talk about this challenge and to promise to call each other out when this type of unproductive multi-tasking happens. 

More impromptu communication

In my experience, the lack of impromptu communication has been the single biggest downside of remote work. All too often, people confuse working remotely with being “heads down” and not needing to communicate in real time. While this may work for some departments within some companies, it’s the exception. Our company thrives on sharing information and responding to customer requests and requests from other team members in real time. Be sure to talk to those team members who may have gotten used to and maybe too comfortable with asynchronous communication. 

Longer work blocks

Working remotely has afforded us many luxuries, including the flexibility to fit personal agenda items into our work day. Some team members may have been able to plan their work around errands, chores, or personal appointments, so it will take a bit of a shift to plan those things around working in the office. We will have to get used to a new (the old) way of structuring our days, which will likely manifest itself in larger, more concentrated blocks of work. 

Contributing to the office environment

While working remotely, all you had to worry about is your own office. Heck, in some cases, you may not even have had a dedicated office and had to fight for a little space in your house to get things done. So obviously, being back in a shared environment will be much different. You will be playing an integral part in re-establishing a comfortable and supportive work environment, which may include little things like making coffee, watering plants, getting the snail mail, or doing a content audit of the fridge. A change, for sure!

Professional appearance

You’ve seen the memes of people wearing button down shirts and jackets for a video call while sporting shorts and bare feet that nobody could see. Some of us may have gotten overly comfortable with regard to our appearance. And thankfully, we’ve been cutting each other some slack, as we did not feel comfortable going to the hair salon or barber shop or in some cases, to even continue our daily upkeep during the heights of COVID-19. Re-establishing the routines that afforded us a reasonable level of professional appearance may not happen in an instant, but it doesn’t mean that we should lower our standards indefinitely. 

It only takes 28 days to form or to break a habit, so after almost a year and a half of doing things differently and mostly in isolation, we simply can’t expect things to go back to normal immediately. We need to recognize our challenges and take one step at a time to find our footing in a post pandemic world. 

What about you? What are you having to re-learn?


Think HR doesn’t impact the bottom line? Think again!

In the software industry, particularly in the startup arena, the focus tends to be on the product, services, and clients. Sometimes, the entire focus is on those areas, because they are the money makers, right? Too often, the “backoffice” is considered a necessary evil and a begrudged expense. Sure, HR is there to ensure that we adhere to protocols and employment laws and to make sure we get paid. But HR doesn’t really affect the bottom line. Right? Wrong! Let’s think about it a bit more.

Help define what culture means

Your company culture can make or break your business. The importance of having the right people on the bus can’t be underestimated. However, it is also crucial for everyone to understand what company culture is: the way people act when nobody’s watching. It’s knowing the right thing to do simply because everyone shares the same values. One of the biggest misconceptions I’ve encountered is that culture pertains to tread desks in the office, craft beers on tap, or a casual dress code. The moment when superficial things are confused with culture is when you need to intervene, and HR can be a valuable ally in this effort by asking employees (and candidates) to explain what culture means to them, what your company’s values are and how to measure alignment. After all, jeans and t-shirts, pool tables and free lunches won’t do anything to grow your company if the team doesn’t share the same values in terms of work ethic, empathy compassion, passion, humility, drive, and desire to always get better.

Identify the right candidates and help others to do the same

Any hire is a significant investment on several levels. The right hire can be a game changer, while the wrong hire can result in lost productivity and compromised morale, which inevitably negatively impacts the bottom line. HR plays a key role in recruiting the gamechangers who have the right skillset and aptitude, and, more importantly, the right attitude. But that’s not all. Your HR reps can help your team members become good interviewers. Solicit their advice and their help so that everyone interviewing, especially with regard to culture checks, knows the best questions to ask (hint: it’s not “What part of town do you live in?”) in order to determine if a candidate can excel in your company and can help your company excel.

Assist in developing compensation structure

Your HR manager has a lot of data at their fingertips and frequently researches emerging trends and compensations for each position. Is your current sales commission structure the optimal way to achieve your company’s revenue and profit goals? Is it fair to all parties involved? Is there a better way? Consider involving your HR manager in those discussions and let them help you come up with some new ideas and options.

Measure employee engagement and help make appropriate changes

One of the most misleading definitions of employee engagement is that it’s the level of employee happiness and enthusiasm. While this is an ideal outcome of engagement, it is not engagement itself. Employee engagement is measured by how closely the company’s goals and values are aligned with those of the employees. This is why it’s so important for your HR team to conduct engagement check-ins with each team member and to identify any areas that need to be addressed in order to identify and hopefully rectify any misalignments. For example, if someone expresses confusion about their career trajectory in the company, the HR manager should bring this to the attention of the manager and discuss if and how a path that benefits both the employee and the company can be mapped out. Or, if someone is unclear about how they can most strongly impact the revenue goals of the company, both the HR manager and the direct manager can help paint a better picture and provide action items. Misalignment can cost you dearly (literally), so HR taking charge through engagement check-ins is key.

Be smart about perks

HR typically presents a budget to the CEO that includes a breakdown of perks that the company offers to employees. These may include things like anniversary gifts, lunches, and professional development stipends. Perks don’t just include material things, but also company events, teleworking, and other social initiatives. It all sounds wonderful. The more perks you provide, the happier your employees will be and the better they’ll perform, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. It takes skill to find the right balance and invest in the right things at the right time. For example, if your cultural climate is experiencing a shift towards taking things for granted instead of gratitude, it may be beneficial to focus on a reset and simplify the perks a little. Implementing the right things at the right time requires that HR has a keen understanding of the cultural pulse of the company, financial situation, and tracking towards company goals.

Your human resources department does so much more than clerical and legal work, so much more than keeping you in the clear from lawsuits. By championing your company values and ensuring alignment between individuals, their departments, and the business as a whole, HR has a significant impact on the bottom line.

What are your thoughts?