After months of working remotely full time, my office decided to implement a hybrid work model. Each week we have to work at the office for two days per week. We can choose which two days. One of the main reasons for the hybrid work model is to foster in-person collaborative work and culture. With that in mind, my department decided to have one fixed day for everyone and one flex day. That way we have one day when everybody is usually around, and one day that works best for us.
I didn’t know what to expect. I still don’t know what to expect. Masks and social distancing are still a requirement. There are so many new things to navigate in a hybrid work environment. Some people are really strict about masking. Others are more casual. Ironically, I almost feel more isolated in the hybrid environment than I did working remotely. I stay at my workstation all the time, masked and distanced.
Before the pandemic, most of my meetings were in rooms with the other participants. Now I have meetings from my desk with a headset on. I always feel self-conscious speaking at meetings knowing that the people around me can hear what I’m saying, even if they can’t hear the other participants. It’s a weird feeling. Also, it’s hard for me to gage my speaking volume with the headset on. I’m naturally a loud talker so this is challenging for me.
One thing I didn’t fully consider is hybrid meetings. I’ve had hybrid meetings pre-pandemic, where some people are in the room and others are calling in. I’ve even had hybrid meetings with a mix of in-person, video, and on the phone. Those are definitely challenging. However, required social distancing has added a new dimension to these meetings. It’s hard to see and hear everyone in the meeting room.
So far the best part of going back has been wearing some of my favorite clothes. Admittedly, I’ve been living in yoga pants and sneakers for the last 18+ months. It felt nice to wear something different and put on my favorite pair of knee-high boots. I even motivated myself to get some shoes repaired and buy a new pair of pants, in the hopes I’ll have a reason to wear them. Even if it is just to sit in my workstation with a mask on two days a week.