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.
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!
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?