No Such Thing as a Normal Zoom Call
Almost every Zoom call I’ve been on this year has been quietly interrupted by my dog. The door in my basement office opens slowly and no one visibly comes through it, but down there under the desk Alex snuggles up around my ankles. And on many of these calls I’ve introduced her to whomever is on the other end of the screen.
How many of us have had similar experiences to this? Kids, spouses, pets, parents and grandparents have made appearances in what used to be our mostly cloistered work lives. I’ve laughed at tale after tale of awkward moments created by the weird world where we’ve been working where we live.
An employee here at Employee Fanatix recently spent time working from her family’s home watching her younger siblings. A regular Zoom meeting that week actually established a deeper connection between my two employees on the call, as they bonded over similar family lives and the joy and distraction caused by momentarily working in a home around children.
For many people, it is not a momentary occurrence. With limited travel and the closure of so many office spaces, many Americans have greeted their homes as their offices everyday for over a year. So many of us haven’t ventured from our towns for months on end. Research shows that “More than a third of U.S. households reported working from home more frequently than before the pandemic” (The United States Census Bureau).
Whether you have had an awkward Zoom encounter, or just an out of place one, as it stands, our lives and our work have been stirred up together. Those who work with us on a regular basis have probably grown to know us on a much deeper level. How many of your coworkers are more familiar with the real “you” after the past 14 months?
The Uncomfortable Truth
My point is, the more you get to know the whole person, in any relationship, the better the relationship will be.
I devote an entire chapter in my latest book, The Art of Caring Leadership: How Leading with Heart Uplifts Teams and Organizations. How does one go about leading the whole person? Well, I can confidently say we’ve come a lot farther in the past year than maybe ever before.
The act of getting to know someone, like really getting to know them, can be uncomfortable for many people. These awkward situations and unfortunate circumstances that have drawn our workplaces apart, have in many ways thrown them closer together.
Now you might know about each of your coworkers’ children, and you’ve maybe even met them through a computer screen. Or, perhaps, you learned of another coworkers’ hardship within the home. Many people experienced illness and death mere feet from their latest ‘office’. Knowing these details about a person’s life is not a lighthearted matter. Your empathy muscle should be twitching and yes, it might be uncomfortable. But we can now be there for our team member’s and colleagues in a way we never really were before.
You Know More Than You Think
Leading the whole person means showing true acceptance of team members by intentionally expressing empathy, compassion and understanding.
Whether you wanted this deeper glimpse into your team members’ lives or not, please rise to the occasion and be a Caring Leader (even if you aren’t leadership). Incorporate your new perspective of your team into the way you treat them. I guarantee this has already happened naturally, or been brought about by the adjustments to work from home culture.
If you reached out to your team about the world behind their computer screens when they were miles away from you, then be sure to continue that behavior when you meet in person. People’s lives and their many complications aren’t going anywhere. But, as they seem to drift further into the background while in-person work slowly ramps up, don’t forget about those connections forged across wifi networks and cell towers during that crazy Covid year.
Have personal one-on-one conversations. Acknowledge the stronger more weathered bonds you have with your team when you meet in a new environment. Check in on their families, their personal lives, heck even their pets! Your team members will thank you and your jobs will be fruitful. People who feel cared for will in turn take care of the work they were hired to do.