It has been over a year now since our work environments drastically changed. Many companies have been virtual since that time. By lifting most restrictions over the past few weeks, the CDC has finally given us hope that things will soon return to normal. Offices are starting to fill, we’re able to see smiles again, and family gatherings are no longer anxiety-inducing. As we begin to shift into new routines, it’s important that we bring with us the positive takeaways that came out of this challenging year.
Taking calls and meetings remotely, from your home instead of the office, is a much intimate experience – especially for those who (like me) were mainly office dwellers. Trying to mimic office space in homes was a challenge, but also an opportunity to better get to know our colleagues. For instance, I now know how many young children my coworkers and clients have. I know who has a loud dog, and who has a curious cat. These are no longer just voices on the other end of a phone call – they’re amazing, personable people with full lives.
I have also seen my coworkers accomplish incredible things under extraordinary circumstances. The challenges we faced in 2020 were unprecedented. There was no blueprint for how to be successful in that environment. I saw my team work strange hours when their kids required their daytime attention. I watched coworkers create flexible availability to help those that needed it. The teamwork and dedication felt at an all-time high at a time many would have predicted it would falter. There were so many distractions, and yet employee performance remained strong.
There are exciting things to look forward to when returning to the office. We are social creatures who thrive on face-to-face interaction. I look forward to stopping by someone’s office for a quick answer to a complex question that otherwise could have taken 3 confusing emails. I look forward to brainstorming sessions and bouncing ideas off my talented coworkers. And I look forward to that piece of team building that can only be done in person, especially when welcoming new employees.
But with the excitement of office reopenings, let’s not throw out everything we learned in 2020. There are lessons we can take with us, no matter what the future work landscape holds. We can proceed with the empathy and understanding that came with the personal relationships we built. We can continue to show trust in our coworkers and provide the space and flexibility for them to balance professional performance and a personal life. And we can remain thankful for the office lives we are able to return to – though maybe not the traffic.