Here we are, 1 year since the COVID-19 pandemic sent us home to work. Here I am 141 days since I wrote my “howl at the moon” article.
A year. A trip around the sun that has both flown past and been interminable at the same time. Things have both changed and they haven’t but, at least for me, there’s a net positive. As I wrote that, somewhat through stream of consciousness, it stopped me in my tracks; it’s a Thing but why is it a Thing?
As I ruminated on that thought, it finally hit me: I’ve been here before. No... not barricaded on the compound because zombie apocalypse, but I did work remotely for years in a past life and thrived. However, since it had been years since I had been remote, I forgot how to be good at it learned after years of practice being so.
This will not be yet another treatise on how to be remote. I think I have seen roughly 12,438 of them since the start of the pandemic. There is some good in all of them albeit many with only this past year of learning baked into them. They are a good first approximation but definitely in the YMMV category. Rather, this is me taking some of my own medicine from my closing exhortation in the previous article: “Find a human. Talk to that human. Preferably about something silly. It’s time.”
Since taking that approach, I have reconnected with many friends and colleagues that I will take ownership of neglecting to stay connected with during this stage of the pandemic. It also helped me grok the context of those that I don’t speak to often; I didn’t, other than when I happened upon them in the hallway before and nothing really changed. The only thing that did change is that the hallway is now a more esoteric, metaphysical form. Those that I made a point of dropping by to talk and was reciprocated pre-COVID are “with” me again after reconnecting or, indeed, never left. The need for moon howling has abated somewhat. I have heard from many who also stepped up to reconnect that they have found the same thing.
While this is a (somewhat) pointed effort to not be a remote work guide, there is one salient thing I learned during my previous remote work stint that is germane to this topic. There was a bare handful of us, in that company, granted the “boon” of remote work and this was a decade before we’ve been thrust into this new normal. What I realized was that, in a multi-location company, we tended to think of the “company” as being those inside the same physical box we were in. When I went remote, I eventually stopped thinking that way. I “saw” the whole company and interacted with them equally, regardless of where they were using the same tools then as have been thrust upon us with the pandemic.
I had somewhat forgotten that lesson during the years solely in an office but it’s coming back. I have a further advantage as an Atlassian Community Leader in that I am on a Slack workspace for that group of humans. They, and another profession related workspace I am on, have grown to be important extensions to my professional circle of friends. True, in the stray workspaces I am not talking about day-to-day office stuff but I do have a place where my specific skill set is understood more than my workplace in which I would be best classified as one of the toaster shakins; there’s only one of me here. With another dose of my own medicine on those forums, I have been fortunate to have found people as good “work” friends that I would otherwise never have met, much less known quite well.
I find, as I look back over what I have written to make sure I am not talking out my... hat... that the changes are actually more positive than I thought when I first posited the premise. As much as there is the lack of in-person contact, the locked away from humans feeling has greatly abated. Indeed, some of the frenetic activity on “working together apart” forums and Slack channels may have been their own form of fever. On reflection, both leading up to writing this article and bolstered by writing it, the current “quieter” activity is more in keeping with what normally happens day-to-day.
Even the things that seem to have not changed... have. True, there is so much still shut down making this world still far from “normal”. However, as we have learned more about this scourge, we have learned how to do things out and about while mitigating the risk. It’s not perfect and we are still limited but it’s better. We have the tools to evaluate a given risk for a given situation and make a reasonable decision that is not always on the side of hiding away from everything.
While the new normal is better than it was even just those 5 months ago when I wrote the previous article, the old normal still can’t be seen for the horizon. However, with better understanding of the virus and vaccines coming along there are at least the first rays of light appearing over that horizon.
Mike RathwellCommunity Leader
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