Pandemic-Style Remote Work and the New Normal: A Perspective From a Pre-COVID Remote Employee
Do you remember that day back in March when you and thousands of office employees around the United States were sent home to work due to the COVID-19 public health crisis?
You might have been so happy at first. After all, working from home was a coveted privilege reserved for a few. Now, it’s for everyone! Maybe you glamorized the idea of what it must be like – I’ll sleep in, work in my lounge clothes, and do what I want, when I want.
Has your opinion about remote work changed now that you have real experience with it under your belt?
Whether you love it or hate it, there's another dynamic today impacting your work-from-home experience -- a global pandemic.
My Remote Work Norm Has Changed
Remote working isn’t new for me. I’ve been remote for 4 years now.
When my husband and I decided to get married, we needed to pick a place to live that would allow us both to continue working in our family businesses. The best choice was a four-hour drive from Accent's headquarters.
We now have a 10-month old son, Grant. Pre-COVID, Grant and I would get out of the house when the clock hit 5 o’clock. We’d go to the grocery store to get ingredients for the evening’s dinner, stroll the aisles of Target, or go to the park with friends.
These simple, everyday activities got us both out of the house to see the world and clear our heads.
While the way that I work remotely hasn’t changed during the pandemic, my experience has changed a lot because the options for what I can do outside of work right now are very limited.
Instead of our 5 o’clock adventures around town that got us out of the house, now Grant and I play with toys in his room, swing in the backyard, or go for walks around our neighborhood.
Me and my little guy, playing in his room after work
I have to admit that life is harder without the mental clarity breaks, scenery changes, and visits with friends that I looked forward to previously, but we're making the best of it -- and I know I’m not the only one affected by the feelings that come with these limits in mobility and connection.
Our leadership team at Accent understands that many of our employees are feeling some level of disconnect and discomfort during the pandemic. We’re doing our best to stay connected and maintain our personal relationships with each other with Microsoft Teams meetings, virtual happy hours, and more frequent check-ins.
We're trying to help people feel like they’re not an island while everyone’s working from their individual locations, but it takes time for remote work to feel “normal”.
Making Remote Working the New Normal
When I started working remotely, it took months before it was “normal” to sit at a desk by myself all day, every day.
Even a year into being remote, some people at the office would wait until they saw me back at HQ if they needed something, even though they could easily get ahold of me through Teams (formerly Lync), email, or by dialing my phone extension.
I’ve had several years to figure out how I can best work and collaborate with coworkers, and I haven’t been the only remote worker at Accent. Several employees had the ability to work remotely before COVID happened.
For those who are new to remote working, you probably aren’t getting a fair view of what it can be like.
If your company didn’t previously have a culture of remote or flexible working schedules, you’ve had to adapt quickly and figure out how to make it work.
You may also have struggled if you didn’t have the technology you needed to do your job at home exactly as you would do it in the office.
Can’t Do This Without the Right Technology
Without a doubt, none of us would be able to work remotely without the right technology, but unfortunately, many of today’s remote workers don’t have the ideal technology setup at home.
Because your company’s first priority was to just be functional, you may be using your home computer, or you might be working off of a laptop from your bed when you’re used to two big monitors at your desk. You may not have been able to get to the documents or apps that you use to get your job done.
What we’re seeing now is that companies are optimizing their remote worker technology setup, improving security, as well as communication and collaboration tools.
Remote work tech has come so far in the past 4 months.
Attitudes have changed too. Just think about online meetings. It used to feel foreign to have your web cam turned on for every meeting. Today, you’re the odd man out if you don’t have your camera on.
And personally, I find it’s actually harder to have a conversation now over a video calling platform if the other person’s camera isn’t on. I know it’s just a phone call at that point, but still – it feels weird.
A particularly lively sales and marketing team huddle this morning
You Can Build Relationships Without Being Together Physically
If you ask people what they miss about not going into the office, a lot of people say – face-to-face interactions. No doubt, you lose a certain amount of spontaneity when you and your coworkers aren't all mingling in the same location, but it’s totally possible to develop connections with people you don’t see regularly.
I’ve been working with a marketing consultant out of Minnesota for 2 years and we’ve never met, but that’s a small detail that I often forget.
We met through a marketing peer group a few years prior and developed a friendship over phone calls, emails, and video calls. She seamlessly collaborates with our marketing team daily as a guest in our Microsoft Teams account.
COVID Whiplash Not Over Yet
As we’re looking now into offices opening back up, people are wondering what’s going to happen next.
California is giving us whiplash, going back-and-forth over masks, regulations, reversing re-openings, and so on. All we can do is focus on what we can control.
I can’t help but see remote working becoming a way of life for months to come, and it’s likely shifted the way American businesses work -- forever.
Remote work optimization will be the next wave. As I mentioned, some businesses were already headed there and they’re ahead of the curve. For those lagging behind, now’s the time.
About Courtney Casey
In an industry dominated by men, Courtney Casey, Director of Marketing for Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., is making her mark on the world of information technology. Courtney has been immersed in the IT field most of her life and has been molded into the tech savvy expert she is today. She began working for Accent while earning her Bachelor's degree from California State University, Long Beach. Known in the Inland Empire as the "Tech Girl," Courtney is a regular columnist for the region's newspaper of record, The Press-Enterprise. Her columns address topical news trends, new technology products, and offer advice on how to embrace technology or avoid common IT pitfalls.