Growing Pains – Learning from Times of Stress

#SilverThread : A positive experience or learning that comes as a result of a really not-positive situation. (I think of this as a micro-version of a “silver lining”)

People, we have a *huge* “Silver Thread” opportunity on our hands. Working remotely has always included major challenges. I remember trying to facilitate a planning session from a hotel room while the rest of the team was in a conference room at the office, and the utter frustration and sense of futility I felt as I kept having to tell people I couldn’t hear what they were saying as they crinkled snack bags, held multiple side conversations, walked away from the telecomm center and out of range of the mic, etc.

With a massive surge in the number of people who are being asked to work from home due to COVID-19, we’re finding that many of them have not had the chance to ramp up their “Remote Worker” skills. Can we take this moment in time and use this suddenly expanded population to gather more robust data, including frustrations AND learnings on proposed “best practices”, and then (bear with me, I know this is a radical idea) use that data to better understand how we can more effectively interact when we’re NOT working in person with our colleagues?

What *really* works? Do we really NEED those meetings, or can we manage knowledge transfers better in other ways? What is the *real* value in face-to-face interactions? What is the actual rationale for the “butts-in-seats = value-added” attitude? What can we leverage that for the most benefit to both the people involved and the company as a whole? And for those who will likely be returning to the office at some point – can you use these experiences to create a stronger empathy when dealing with people who almost work remotely? Maybe those complaints about the crummy sound quality on your company’s teleconferences isn’t so petty after all, eh?

Please don’t mistake what I’m saying – I don’t advocate for everyone to plug into the Matrix and never actually interact with another human again. I believe there IS value in maintaining in-person connections and exchanges – we’re still human with basic human need for other people, at some pretty foundational levels, but I suspect some of our HR policies are, at their core, based in a lack of trust or outdated “That’s how we’ve always done things” attitudes, and those are both pretty significant red flags.

So if you’re somebody who’s found yourself suddenly working from your kitchen table or living room, as you’re adjusting to your new (albeit temporary) reality, consider taking some notes on what works, and also what *doesn’t*. And when the dust settles, leaders need to reach out and have conversations about these topics – and if they don’t, reach out to THEM! If we have to be uncomfortable anyway, it seems almost criminal to ignore such an incredible opportunity for personal and organizational evolution.

By Sarah Ratekin |

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