After more than a year in telework mode, the darkness is rising and giving way to light on its challenges and consequences. To help employees continue to be productive while maintaining a healthy balance between professionalism at work and harmony within her family, Etiquette Expert Julie Blais Comeau presents solutions to: 1) control the increase in the number of meetings and emails, 2) manage the repercussions of isolation, 3) manage the difficulty of disconnecting to rest and 4) how to react effectively to digital incivility.
You dreamed of it for a long time. You couldn’t wait to say “Bye-bye wasting time to get to and from work. And bye-bye loss of money for parking as well as for work clothes and restaurants. Hello to scheduling reconciliation and, finally, hello to harmony in my world! You even planned what you would do with your extra time and money savings. Then, as if by magic, between a certain Friday and the following Monday, your dream came true. Emergency sanitary measures took effect. You found yourself working from home even though we were and still are in the midst of a pandemic, you said, “Thank you, life! “. Your workstation is now at home. But in your dreams, you did not expect the current negative consequences of COVID-19 or your possible contamination with the virus. This fulfilled dream of working from home can turn into a nightmare if you don’t soon remedy its negative consequences.
I– INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF COMMUNICATIONS
To compensate for the lack of spontaneous conversations that not so long ago were triggered by meetings in the hallways, or the disappearance of instant brainstorms launched over office partitions, the number of virtual meetings and emails has grown dramatically. Videoconferencing does not have that informal casual character even though they are less structures and less detailed than formal meetings. To compensate for the necessary follow-ups you are now faced with even more email exchanges and instant messages.
To regain control of your communications, focus on your effectiveness during meetings. Send the agenda ahead and announce the goal at the start of the meeting. Recap the next steps to wrap up and stick to the allotted time. Even though everyone is home, finish on time. It is respectful and demonstrates integrity.
For endless email exchanges, first validate the list of people to include in the exchanges, including those who should be copied and those who should be excluded. Then, when you go past three exchanges, call. Yes, you read that correctly: call. This mode of communication seems to have been forgotten for many people, but it remains very effective in validating information in a few moments.
II– THE REPERCUSSIONS OF ISOLATION
Depending on your personality, you may more or less suffer from the current confinement that is imposed on us. One thing is certain, everyone is at home, collaboration is more difficult, successful communications are less apparent. Synergistic creativity is less fluid.
Disengagement and decreased motivation can follow. Some of your team members may be experiencing these side effects and may exert less effort or become less reliable. Others, insecure about their job and less visible because of their functions or their projects, try to show off and become more competitive. The erosion of relations within the team may be felt.
Since isolation makes no noise, observing and especially noting changes in behaviour is a good guide. A colleague who always found a word to say speaks less. Another who used to always be well dressed is now extremely casual and sometimes even not all “put together”. To counter self-esteem and estrangement, present moments of social support. Celebrate good times. Make calls that start with a simple ” How are you? And then take the time to listen. Express your appreciation for the work and the contribution of other employees and colleagues. Make sure to give details. Allow others the opportunity to do so too. Fifteen minutes before a meeting “Open” the virtual door of your waiting room when for a collective coffee break. Announce it in the agenda. And if you are not at your best and are finding hard to be motivated, talk to your supervisor, a loved one, or even your doctor.
If you feel invisible and that your efforts are not being noted, report regularly to your supervisor on the progress of your work. Be concise, to the point and maintain a regular frequency.
III– THE DIFFICULTY OF DISCONNECTING
At home, everything you need for work is at your fingertips. You have saved the travel time, but you have to stay at home. The practical result is that several employees log in earlier. The problem is, many of them log on again at night and on the weekends, to do a few more hours of work.
To avoid burnout, maintain the same work schedule you had before the pandemic. Open and shut your computer at the same times as you did before the lockdown. If your family obligations and the chaos of your household don’t allow it, set up work hours that will work for you. Stick to your schedule. To reconcile professional and personal life, balance can also be found in a weekly cycle of longer with one or two days off during the week. Input all your obligations in your calendar, especially if others have access to them. Announce your new working hours to your team members, partners and customers.
Make transitions. Just like when you went to the office, the factory or the clinic, change your clothes. Go for a walk after turning off your computer and before putting on your apron. Take advantage of being away from your computer to catch up on the news with your loved ones on the phone; as you did when you went to meet them for a drink. Take your breaks outside. Yes, make yourself a little place in the sun, pull out your sandwich and enjoy your meal outdoors.
Still not able to disconnect? Make a pact with a friend who will text or call you at the appointed time of the end of your workday.
IV – RISE IN DIGITAL INCIVILITY
As an etiquette expert, I cannot help writing this article without sharing with you what my clients are writing to me. Even though it is often unintentional and associated with fatigue as well as lack of face-to-face contact, from all the emails received I can assure you that digital incivility is unfortunately on the rise.
Often more subtle than threatening tone and words, these micro-transgressions of professional politeness damage trust, credibility and relationships. This applies as much to internal company relations as to relationships with your external work circles. Emails without any greetings, responses without courtesy words or sent at inappropriate times are irritating, disruptive and could even be perceived as offensive.
The same goes for a camera that’s always closed when others open it and constant interruptions from texting or videoconferencing without an assigned time. As you can imagine, digital incivility is also present on social media, especially in forums where Internet users are not required to identify themselves.
Do not ignore these behaviours and attitudes. Invite an etiquette expert to present an activity on civility. Confirm your impressions with your interlocutor. Present clearly your communication expectations.
We are in a pandemic and teleworking is the current recommendation from the authorities. For how long? No one knows, but hope is on the horizon. Working from home will remain for some employees, while others will choose the hybrid mode. It is therefore important to now address what is not working for you and to put in place solutions that will allow you to flourish at work.
Also, remember to celebrate yourself and recognize the benefits of working from home. You are now probably more independent in solving your tech worries. Well done! When you don’t have a “home” interruption, you are more efficient. Well done again! Plus, the biggest bonus of all, you now have more time to do what you love and be there for your family. Plus, you may very well have managed to save some money. Plan how you will spoil yourself post-pandemic. Once again, well done!
Translated from a published article in La référence of l’Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines du Québec on March 15, 2021 (c) Julie Blais Comeau