The workplace was already evolving, but you might’ve noticed things accelerated in the last year and a half or so. For many of us, work relationships are no longer made up of people we see on a regular basis. It is more and more possible by the day to have an entire functioning relationship without ever seeing a person or even hearing their voice. Of course there’s also the Zoom phenomenon, which paradoxically means that there are people we talk to and see each other virtually more than we ever did in person. Talk about an evolution. An office building is no longer a prerequisite for office relationships.
Three Ways You Must Adapt to the Changing Workplace
Office space = Any Space
Working in the same vicinity as people used to be a necessity. If you couldn’t walk down the hall to knock on someone’s door or get together in a conference room to discuss the next initiative, you couldn’t get much done. Now that you can work from anywhere, you can have meetings across time zones and without even leaving your home. You may still see your coworkers virtually, but you’re less likely to have spontaneous conversations at the proverbial water cooler.
Yes, you can work from anywhere and this part isn’t new. But thanks to the virus that shall not be named, it seems like now everyone expects you to be on camera. Well dang. At home, you really should step it up a little. Seth Godin has some ideas that make a big difference. They’re worth investing in if you can. If you must work from vacation, at least pack a ring light.
It may seem counterintuitive, but working from home has made the work/life balance worse for many of us. There used to be a somewhat forced separation of work and home. While you could take your work home with you, it was a lot harder to reach people with a random thought or question late at night or on the weekend. You were unlikely to call someone’s home and risk waking their kids at 9 PM. But shooting off an email or a text at 9 PM is socially acceptable and reading work communication as you’re going to bed or first thing in the morning is expected. Getting responses in a few minutes is so much the norm that a “delayed” response of even 10 minutes can cause concern. Now, it almost seems like you literally have to go underground (on the subway) or take a flight in order to get a break from electronic communications.
It’s worth making it a priorirty though. Do what you gotta do to have a break from the computer. Take a walk. Meditate. Lock your phone in a safe. Really. Everything will be better for it, including your work.
Communication is Easier. Except When It’s Harder.
With this level of access, it’s incredibly easy to communicate in a moment. But we arguably have more communication errors since we can’t truly read people over email or text and emojis don’t quite replace seeing a live human face. Replacing live communication almost completely has its own challenges.
It also really sucks to feel you have to respond on evenings and weekends. If you want a hack for respecting work hours for others (even if you work at odd times) use your schedule send option. It’s the best! Instead of sending at 1 AM, schedule an email to send at 8 AM the next day. It’s minor, but worthwhile both because it shows respect for their time and doesn’t condition others to expect you to work at all hours.
The Bottom Line
Work relationships have changed massively in the digital age. And then you-know-what came and just blew the roof off everything we expected. FaceTime often substitutes for face time, emojis often substitute for actual facial expressions, and all our “time savers” eat away at more and more of our time.
It will be interesting to see if the pendulum could end up swinging back to more personal interaction. What do you think? Will we be so starved for human interaction that we run back to the office? Or are we too happy with our sans-shoe lives and lean even more and more on technology to replace the live interactions that used to be necessary?