Is lockdown and remote working changing our approach to work?
In the days of lockdown, as I sit on conference calls, I’m conscious that clients and colleagues can see the inside of my house. As someone who doesn’t often work from home it seems like a strange mix of my personal and work life. It’s a direct example of how the lockdown is blurring the lines between our private and professional lives, and adding an extra layer of humanity to the latter which might change our working relationships for the better.
The formal “rules” of work are coming undone – if you can remember the kids who crashed their parents teleconference call on the BBC, you’ll also remember that this went viral as it seemed so unusual at the time (and equally hilarious). But now hearing children in the background of a conference call or seeing other people passing across the background has become the new norm.
This new norm brings with it an informality with business calls and meetings, but also more understanding and flexibility of people’s individual home lives. On a series of virtual working sessions with a big tech client, their child even sat on their lap for the last 10 minutes, a prime example of how the lockdown is making us all become more human and how that added personal level to our working relationships can be refreshing and enjoyable. It reminds us that the people who we deal with through work are, at the end of the day, fellow humans who have other things going on in their life apart from this one hour conference call.
It’s all part of the increased sense of community and collaboration being felt in in general in a time where we are more isolated from each other than ever. The clap for NHS staff has really made that shine through, where even in London (a notoriously antisocial city) people clap out of their window every Thursday evening, a sound I have only heard before when England score a goal in the world cup.
Is this forced evolution in our approach to work and a renewed sense of community as a result of remote working technology something that will stay with us beyond covid-19?
I’m not saying that professionalism will be scraped forever, but the current new normal of working from home is making us all much more aware and respectful of life’s demands and what it takes for people to orchestrate their personal and professional lives, and bring as much of themselves to both as possible. Hopefully, this won’t be forgotten when lockdown is lifted. Those demands and needs will remain, and I hope people’s understanding and collaborative approach to working will too.