Back before Covid-19 I had more carefully guarded social media streams. I rarely posted “everyday” items and leaned more toward polished professional moments on Instagram and work-related articles on Twitter. Not that I didn’t love the everyday, it was more that somewhere along the way I started believing it was best to show myself in a more singular dimension sort-of-way.
And then Covid-19.
In one week, I went from working in a formal office environment to working on whatever surface has the least Play-Doh, markers, or kid-inventions. Instead of putting on a formal suit and heading out the door each morning for a series of meetings, I put on the #ZoomMullet (work attire on the top, paired with sweatpants) and head to my laptop to begin video-based calls. Instead of pausing my workday for a quick break to replenish my coffee cup, I’m pausing my workday to help my kids with their school work.
The careful delineation between “work me” and “home me” has blurred to the point of nearly disappearing.
Covid-19 has forced us to enter personal places in the work environment in and unprecedented manner and I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. I’ve met a delightful number of dogs on zoom calls in the past couple weeks and have enjoyed seeing all the different backdrops my meetings are now adorned with.
The other day, I hosted a 15 person Zoom meeting and my six-year-old son decided he wanted to participate. He was enthralled with all the faces and by the meeting’s end he was sitting on my lap grinning into my screen. As the meeting concluded I almost apologized for the distraction he no doubt introduced into our meeting. I stopped myself though.
Now is not the time to apologize for being human. Rather, now is the time that you should embrace all that makes you a wonderful, complex person. In doing so, you give others permission to do the same.
If we all must deal with the challenging circumstances, which we must, can we please all commit to use this as an opportunity to get to know each other in a more fair, holistic way? Not just as coworkers but as co-humans. So much is out of our control these days but we do have control of how we choose to show up and engage with others. Let’s reach past what we do and take time to explore who we really are.
That all sounds good, and you may agree would make for more enjoyable working relationships, but how do you actually accomplish it? It is the little actions that nudge your authentic self to show up. Here are some of the ways you can accomplish authenticity in socially distant work arrangements.
- Make sure meetings include time to share beyond the tasks and projects at hand. Within the meetings I run I call these our “bright spots” and have dedicated agenda time to allow for this celebration of good.
- Make time for chit-chat before the real work of the call starts. On one call I learned the other family was in the middle of a history lesson on the Louisiana Purchase. All of a sudden my colleague became multi-dimensional.
- Share the challenges you are facing. The other day on a phone call with a vendor, we spent time discussing the difficulties balancing teaching our kids with the ever present demands of our jobs. The honest sharing made me feel less alone in my own challenges.
- Stop apologizing when your spouse, roommate, or child walks across the background of your meeting. Everyone is adjusting and doing their best to make this work. Do not add any unnecessary layers of angst.
- Let folks on a Zoom call meet your dog! We all need reasons to smile — your four legged best friend could be the reason we were looking for.