We’re calling this the “mostly un-necessary summary” because, if the previous 11 posts haven’t given you the information you needed, odds are you won’t find it here. Because this post isn’t about information, it’s about encouragement.
As we said at the start of this series, at the best and most normal of times working remote feels different than the way in-office work does. Not only different, but in some ways harder. But not all of this can be laid at the feet of telework itself.
Some of what you are undoubtedly experiencing isn’t because WFH is hard, but because our specific situation here in 2020 is hard. It’s a challenge irrespective of our individual deadlines and deliverables. It’s a hurdle no matter the organizational size or the interdepartmental politics involved. It is, to use one of the most commonly used descriptions of the day, unprecedented.
Many of us are trying to juggle work and life and family all in the same space. We’re trying to ignore the distractions and at the same time not be a distraction to the folks around us. We look for ways to resolve our frustration and ease our anxiety while at the same time not give our loved ones a reason to feel those same emotions.
Nothing in the previous 11 posts talked about this in any great detail. It’s the one piece which is deeply personal—as unique and specific as each of us who is sorting it out right now. And while we can’t offer the level of specificity on this challenge as we have in everything until now, we can offer you some general thoughts.
First, be kind with yourself, with those you live with, and in all your interactions. We’re all coming to this moment from different backgrounds and histories. We all have different pressures, and we all have different methods of coping. Remember to breathe. Remember to think before speaking or acting (and especially before hitting “send” on an email). If nothing else, see if what you intend to say passes the rule of three: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary to say?
Second, be prepared to grow and change. Not only are we each approaching this differently, but our strategies may change from week to week or even day to day. As we learn more about how to “work together while we’re apart,” we may find techniques and strategies we felt were essential even a week ago are no longer helpful or needed. This is time where we will undoubtedly be called upon to adopt new strategies and then set them aside just as quickly—sometimes hourly—as the facts on the ground for our particular business respond to the fluid situation in the world.
Third, take time to listen. Some of us will find ourselves in close quarters with the same people day after day; while others will find ourselves with little direct human contact. And all the while the people we talked to every day over a cube wall or across the lunch table are now on the other end of a screen or telephone. Now, more than ever, it’s important to recognize the power of listening. Of being genuinely present and open to another person. It doesn’t mean we have to solve their problems. When we listen, we share the burden, so its weight can be borne; or we share a joy, so its intensity is magnified. There are times when friendship calls simply for a human presence, a listening ear and an understanding heart, irrespective of the distance between them.
And finally, look to the future. In the face of calamity, we may feel that we—individually or collectively—are losing hold of everything we once had or knew. Those who lived in generations before us discovered something many of us never learned: we cannot always change the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but we can change the way we see them, and this itself changes the way we feel. We can’t control what happens, but we never lose the freedom to choose how we wish to respond.
In practical terms, this means we can use this time which is filled with so much change and turn it to something positive.
If the WFH life never grows on us, at the very least we can use these experiences to inform our understanding of ourselves. We’ll know telecommuting is not the way we work best, and that—in a future which is not far off—we’ll be back in an office and unplagued by doubts about whether the grass might be greener on the other side of the VPN. At the same time, we’ll understand the challenges our colleagues who are distant—whether in a satellite office or homebound location—are dealing with and adjust our behaviors to make their experiences less difficult.
On the other hand, if we’re thriving in the environment, we have the opportunity right now to be leaders and helpers to our coworkers. To share techniques to build success, to create solutions and work-arounds where there are pitfalls, and to help keep the business moving forward.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this, and share it, and even to contribute your thoughts—whether on social media, our THWACK community, or elsewhere.
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