Camaraderie in the workplace has changed in the last 2 years. Is it for the better? Debatable. But I want to highlight the ways it is different from my perspective.
It’s just after 1pm and I am in a one-on-one Teams meeting with one of Concurrency's awesome Project Managers, Reem Alzubeidi. We were just chatting it up and I thought of a phrase that pretty much describes the current social experiences in the workplace for remote workers. I call it, “V.S.I (Virtually Scheduled Interactions).”
Remember the office days where if you wanted to chat with someone, you could walk up to their desk instead of messaging or calling them?
How about being in a conference room and catching someone nodding off and others are trying to keep from laughing and interrupting the meeting?
Or maybe even when you’re walking through the breakroom and see a co-worker that now works in a different department that you haven’t seen in months so the two of you catch up over coffee? Yeah, it’s not like that anymore.
Reading someone’s body language, observing social queues or even a firm handshake are all just a few examples of how the pandemic changed the way we interact with each other. And here is the thing, it’s not necessarily bad, it’s just different. When you’ve been doing things a certain way your entire life, adapting to a change like that is rather drastic.
V.S.I, also known as, “Virtually Scheduled Interactions” is the situation in which sociability with others in the workplace is essentially in a virtual setting (chat, call, or digital meeting), and never impromptu in physical form. These interactions limit sustained eye contact, decrease attention span, weaken the ability to read facial expressions more precisely, and lessen the accuracy of evaluating a person's characteristics, traits, and behaviors. All these forms of communication were only meant to substitute the in-person interaction, not become the primary.
The COVID-19 pandemic era obviously had protocols that were necessary to keep us all safe, but we had to sacrifice experiences that we subconsciously took for granted in exchange, in-person socialization. While I consider myself an introvert, I genuinely do miss it, but I am not blind to the benefits that come with remote work as well.
If you’re still reading this, I challenge you to do the following to help build those in-person interactions again if you aren’t doing this already… (Note: this is all while keeping you and your peers safe and healthy, of course.)
- Schedule an in-person lunch with a peer or co-worker that you talk to regularly or someone you'd like to get to know. Try to make it recurring based on how often you both see fit and your schedules allow.
- If you’re a leader, try making some of the meetings with your team in-person. Either at the office or a conference center.
- Plan an after work hours event with your team or peers you’d like to hang out with.
- If you're working on a project together, try to find a spot to meet up and brainstorm with one another.
I could go on and on but hopefully you get the gist.
Keep in mind that some people may not yet be comfortable with this idea. That is perfectly OK, and you should treat them no differently based on their willingness to participate. This also would not be as easy to acheive for co-workers who live in a different state. For that situation, I'd say to continue digital interactions with them the best you can and make the most of it!
In the end, we’re all human and we can all benefit from in-the-flesh interactions. Forbes reports that mental health cases have been on the rise significantly since we started working remotely and this very topic could be contributing to some issues you might be experiencing.
I do believe that someday things will go back to how they used to be. But until then, let’s find ways to get to know each other the old fashioned way, in-person.