Working Remotely May Bring Us Closer

We hear so much about resilience as a key to success in work and in life—this has never been truer than during the current shelter-in-place environment. For those who are fortunate enough to still be employed and have jobs that permit a remote work environment, the nature of work is likely to change permanently. It will be interesting to see if a combination of work in the office and a virtual environment allows us to emerge as stronger teams.

The culture of many work environments has been rigid, and many employees are not comfortable openly discussing aspects of their personal lives. They are concerned that they will be judged negatively—as being less committed to the job or capable of handling particular responsibilities. As a result, employees, and women especially, have either suffered in silence, doing their best to make their lives fit the demands of work, or even gone so far as to leave their chosen profession. While the current circumstance is unprecedented, if offers one potential silver lining: an opportunity for many important conversations regarding caring for families. Those conversations are being brought forward, not by the typical group of employees, but by a more diverse one.

Work and home have needed to change to accommodate caring for those who are ill, children, or elderly relatives who are now sheltering at home. I hope this ultimately results in a culture where the safe discussion of employee needs is the norm, rather than the exception, and we can understand each other better as individuals. We each bring our “whole self” to work every day, and that includes our diverse individual and family circumstances. I have been pleasantly surprised at the resourcefulness and resilience of my colleagues in using technology, such as Zoom and Webex.

Until now, many of us had never seen the inside of each other’s homes, met roommates or pets, or done virtual happy hours. We are indeed sharing a more personal side of ourselves, and that sharing has fostered relationships.

For those who manage teams, the transition will require a shift in leadership style and the shouldering of additional responsibilities, as we will need to better understand the individual circumstances of team members. Moreover, it will require managers to be more organized and more purposefully consider how to adapt to the needs, strengths, and weaknesses of individuals on our teams. This means support in the form of adequate opportunities for training, as well as internal and external visibility. Making team culture more proactive is important if we are to rise to the challenges we currently face and a future where work may not solely be in the office.