Hi! I’m Natina. I manage communications (like this blog) and diversity + inclusion work for the Engineering Team. I hope this blog post finds you doing, feeling, and being well.
When I onboarded in April this year, it was with the expectation that after this “coronavirus thing” passed, I would be working from the office. (Oh, how naive we once were, right?). Everyday I logged on to work from the couch (the porch, the kitchen, the car) checking for that “return to the office” notification. I remained enthused about my eventual first day of work, at work!
The “first” in many facets of my life have been seriously exciting memories. The first day of school - including undergraduate and graduate experiences. The first day in a new city, a new state, a new time zone. The first time I used chopsticks. Even that very first bite of Miss Loretta’s sweet potato cookies. There is something to the new surroundings, the new customs, the new people, the new tastes, the newness of it all that excites me. (you too, right?)
So as you might imagine, I worried that not taking the tour of the office on my first day; introducing myself to the others seated near my work station; or realizing that my train stop is the same as someone else’s on the commute home, would impact my experience here at Zuora. My onboarding was peppered with the thought that when we finally flatten the curve, I will get to know, connect, and build relationships with my new colleagues - from within 6 feet/2 meters.
Everything exciting about my home office (read: dining room table) faded, once I realized that it would also be my place of work. I let go of the anticipation of walking down a hallway and hearing things like, “those are cute shoes” and “does that dress have pockets?” Or someone noticing the fire bender charm hanging from my neck, and debating the better Avatar - Aang or Korra. Much like the dwindling excitement of my dining room, I settled into dress shirts and pajama bottoms, exchanging those cute shoes for cool socks.
Six months later my worries about not working from the office, couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve exchanged virtual school woes (I have a goddaughter in the sixth grade; also not sure I’m smarter than one), celebrated birthdays, Slacked condolences, and sent best wishes via flat rate shipping. The warmth of a side hug or a whispered comment in a team meeting is missing - but somehow I felt it in the gifs, text messages, and random deliveries at my doorstep.
I feel invested, probably more so now, in the lives of my colleagues than I likely would have, walking down a hallway with my earbuds in; popping into the kitchen for a kombucha between meetings; or looking for a moment of solace as life (literally anything happening in the world right now) bled into the workday, from a bathroom stall. Sure, virtual happy hours aren’t as vibrant as the real thing, but don’t they cause you to focus more? Who joined? Who turned their camera off? Who is still waiting on the audio to connect? And always, it seems - me, on mute, talking to the screen.
What happened in six months?
Perspective. Very accidentally.
I made friends, just like I do in my real-life, in social networks. That’s what we do, right? We connect with people who know our friends; or follow people online with intriguing talents; and listen to podcasts that help us decompress. We have already learned how to build relationships with people we’ve never met before. For those who were remote employees prior to the pandemic, this revelation is not profound. For those of us catching up, we are worrying less about physical connections in the office, and messaging our colleagues about work, and the package that was just delivered. (I can’t count the number of times I’ve logged on minutes late to a zoom meeting because of the doorbell/delivery).
Even before the pandemic, we were e-meeting colleagues and professionals in our global/distributed companies. Connecting with people we likely might not ever have a face to face interaction with. There was always the possibility, though - in the time before the pandemic. Happenstance meeting in the elevator. Waiting at the shuttle stop commuting home. At an industry conference. I’ve started many, so many of those e-meetings with my name, and “I hope this email finds you doing well.” I meant it before, truly. But there is nothing like the reporting of a second wave of COVID19 cases to give that email greeting new meaning - testing the truest extent of our emotional intelligence.
Sure, “work” was not intended to be this way. Many of us believed that being safe-at-home had an expiration date. But, much like we do with our business - flexing our agility and pivoting to meet customer needs - we are similarly evolving the notion of what it means to “go” to work, “where” work is located, and “when” work happens.
So, stay safe out there, wash your hands, keep the recommended 6ft/2m physical distance (especially at the grocery store!), order some cool socks, take yourself off mute before speaking, and stay connected.
Hoping this found you doing well...truly well.
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