COVID-19 has made work relationships more personal than ever. Employers have a chance to see what their employees are like in their home environment and connect on a more emotional level. At the office it’s all business, but once you’re home with your family, those boundaries are very thin.
There are so many examples of home video fails that include professionals being interrupted by a family member, that lawyer who couldn't turn off the cat filter, you can find all of these online, but we didn't want to be responsible for your wasted afternoon. Whether it’s a meeting or presentation, having your dad walk shirtless behind you will always make for a good office joke. Along with clueless parents, most employees have wild children that are looking for their 15 seconds of fame. These types of interactions lead to more authentic conversations amongst coworkers.
Working from home has allowed coworkers a peek into their colleagues’ homes -- literally. Through video chats, you can see their personality shine on screen whether they’re in their home office or bedroom. This kind of vulnerability allows coworkers to spark up common interests. If you see a colleague with a poster of a band you love, you are definitely going to start up a conversation talking about your favorite songs or members.
Finding common ground during this pandemic is a highlight. You’ll find yourself celebrating a trip to the store and sharing what new snacks you purchased. These small victories have gotten us through most of the last year, and it’s comforting that we get to share it with people we see every day. The silver lining is getting to connect past the surface level of a lunch break conversation or a quick coffee run.
Some companies have gone out of their way to simulate everyday office activities such as morning coffee breaks or even special things like virtual yoga to provide that interpersonal connection with their employees. A crowd favorite is virtual happy hour. Managers will set up a separate after-hours link for coworkers to join in with their favorite drink. Usually if the group is bigger, the person in charge will have a game to keep things organized. This helps wrap up the day with silly games and a much-needed laugh. Another special activity that I enjoy is replacing a team meeting with a check in. It was nice to see where everyone’s head is at for the day and offer a shoulder to lean on.
Coworkers have grown to become more understanding of each other’s situations while working from home. Parents, people living with roommates, or people with animals have seen their coworkers in unfiltered environments. This is a great set-up to what will follow post-COVID-19. Your coworker will be understanding of a delayed meeting in the future, or will finally understand why you’re sometimes exhausted coming into work. Even if it wasn’t what we planned for, this time at home has allowed us to become more empathetic with the people we work with.