Photo credit: Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels.com
It’s been four months since most of us who could be sent home to work were. In the early couple of weeks, the experience was fairly novel for most of us. The lack of a commute, being able to get that walk or run in before work, or having breakfast with family members we’d normally race by were experiences so many of us appreciated. Colleagues who rarely got to have dinner with their families during the week now were able to spend quality time with them even if they then logged back on later in the evening.
Not having to get dressed up was by far a positive development; many joked about how they’d cope with getting out of active wear and Uggs and back into office wear. The technology strained at the pressure of entire companies suddenly logging in through VPNs from home, but that settled quickly, and most of us settled in to working from living rooms, kitchens or anywhere else we could and chatting to colleagues and friends on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Not everyone loved it, but we all did the best we could, and watching colleagues rally around those struggling was great.
If there’s an upside to what’s happened the past several months, it’s been being able to see more into the everyday lives of colleagues. Sure, we all generally knew who had kids and who had a beloved pet they spoke about often, but within the confines of an office, they were far more abstract topics. Under this new arrangement, we’ve all tried to figure out what was in the background of the rooms colleagues were videoconferencing from, but one of the pleasures for me has been seeing colleagues in a different light as children and pets wandered unannounced into conference calls.
Some of my favorite moments have been these:
- So many colleagues talking seriously about an issue only to have a cat stroll across the screen, causing everyone to laugh
- The teenage son of one colleague accidentally walking into the background of his mom’s call, freezing when he realized he was in camera range, not knowing what to do, then darting off to one side
- One colleague participating in an interview while his children sounded like they were murdering each other in another room despite what was probably some orders from Dad to keep quiet the next hour; he battled on and everyone on the call smiled knowing that was life — sometimes it’s unpredictable
- A colleague having what I call a “BBC Dad” moment when his 4-year-old wandered into our call looking for his favorite toy and seeing this lovely gentle side of Dad as he quietly told his child that Daddy was on a call, but would help him find his toy shortly
And there have been many more moments of colleagues bringing babies and toddlers to meetings because that was easier and others in the meetings taking it in stride, sometimes asking the child what they thought of the topic being discussed. I’ve also seen more of people’s homes in the past several months as colleagues wandered through their houses with their laptops and iPads to get to the kitchen to put on the kettle or make lunch, continuing the meeting as they went. No one batted an eye because we were all doing the same thing. Spouses and other significant others delivering coffees into meetings and being introduced in real time was another common occurrence.
There have been some awful and challenging things happening the past several months. People have gotten sick and passed away; people have lost jobs. But the thing I have enjoyed is getting to know my colleagues better and seeing a different side of them. Seeing their kids in real time, watching as serious topics were discussed with pets and babies sitting on laps and everyone on the calls just accepting it as normal — it’s this human side of the past several months I have cherished, seeing into the lives of colleagues I wouldn’t have had a chance to really see. I hope the generosity of spirit and support for one another I witnessed endures as we slowly continue the return to offices across the country.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn and republished and edited with permission from the author.
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About Jane Hollman
Jane Hollman has more than 25 years experience in senior human resources roles at large multinationals and sports across Asia Pacific and the United States. Currently a career coach, she helps business leaders and university students think through their career paths. Hollman is passionate about creating flexible, innovative work places and mentors women looking to start their own businesses. She is also a freelance writer covering the business of sports for publications such as Women Talking Sports.
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