Surviving the New Virtual Work World: We can do this people. We will do this people!

If you already work in a virtual office and complete the majority of your work online, then social distancing is your jam. At least from a professional perspective. But if you have been going to a physical workplace, and meeting with colleagues and clients, all of these requirements to stop gathering together are probably increasing your stress levels.

In the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, one of the characters says to another:
“May you live in interesting times.” It is meant to be a curse. It is a way of saying, “I wish only bad things for you.”

We do live in interesting times, but this does not need to be a curse! We have highly available, reliable, and flexible technology. We can do this people. We will do this people.

For most of us, work has not been canceled, but seeing people face-to-face is rapidly going on hold. All around the globe streaming services are looking forward to increased membership, and introverts are breathing a sigh of relief.

You might not understand all of the fuss about not coming to the office. Great! Then you can use the tips below to help your coworkers navigate this strange new world. And if you are the one feeling some fear, there are tips for you too. No matter what is different, here is what stays the same, we are stronger together.

For those of you who have mastered the virtual work world:

  • Patience, my friends, patience. Not everyone is adept with online conferencing options. People are going to speak while they are on mute, they will intermittently turn their cameras on and off. They might not have cameras.
  • Help one another! Offer unofficial training on the platform you use.
  • Avoid aggressive announcements about learning to go online. I have received a few such announcements. Making statements such as “You are required to complete this training by this date and time.“ Or, “Your contract requires you to keep all of your commitments.” I KNOW. Imagine how upsetting this is for someone who is not used to working online. You can accomplish the same thing with friendlier language.
  • Be kind. If you think someone does not understand that their camera is on and their bathrobe is open, find a discreet way to let him or her know.
  • Scale back your expectations. Remember years ago, when working at home was new to you? You had challenges and productivity issues. In the beginning, productivity will be impacted. Calm down, productivity levels will rise.
  • Keep agendas simple. Don’t hold a mega meeting with a zillion topics. Let people get used to virtual meetings.

For those of you who are new to all of this virtual stuff:

  • Remain calm. MOST people will understand if you are new to virtual tools. You are probably not going to break anything by going online.
  • If you feel intimidated or uncomfortable, then ask a colleague to do some practice sessions with you.
  • Don’t go online in your pajamas. It may seem appealing, but it can also be embarrassing. (See #4 in the list above.)
  • Get dressed and groomed each day. It contributes to your confidence level, and you will not have to meet the delivery guy or gal through a half-closed door. And your family will believe that you have actually been working.
  • Do not turn on the television during working hours.
  • Do take regular breaks.

For EVERYONE:

  • Check-in on one another. If someone is quiet, make sure you follow up.
  • Use humor appropriately. If you are good at making funny memes, do it! Share office-friendly pictures and videos, and audios – it will help keep you feeling more connected.
  • Avoid labeling one another. This is not the time to call someone a drama queen or a hypochondriac or accuse someone else of having ice in their veins. We will all handle this in our own way.
  • Take turns being the voice of reason. On any given day some of you will be calm and unaffected, while others are freaking out. Who is calm? Who freaks out? This will change.
  • Consider holding online coffee breaks and lunches. Meet online, turn on your cameras and hang out, just like you would in the breakroom.
  • Encourage appropriate social sharing. Post your favorite books. Post pictures of your epic monopoly game, or the 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that you are working on. Share recipes, and favorite movies, and lists of binge-worthy shows.
  • Be supportive. You do not know how this is impacting others.
  • Seek help. If this situation is triggering for you, get help. You are not alone, and there are some online therapy options.
  • Remember that professional does not mean being perfect, or hiding ALL of your emotions, or pretending to be invulnerable. It means continuing on, one step at a time. And doing the best work that you can.

Just a reminder – We can do this people. We will do this people, and we will do this together!
(Just not face-to-face.)

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