Making the Most of the Hybrid Workplace

There have been new developments since my previous post on the hybrid workplace in December 2021. Back then, we had only started our two-day a week pilot. Little did I know that right after that post went live, another lockdown descended. We stayed in full remote work mode for another three months and restarted the pilot at the end of March. Coincidentally, I got Covid a week or two into the pilot. I ended up working remote for at least another month until the “covid cough” subsided.

Since starting the pilot in earnest around May it’s been an interesting experience. I try to make the most of my “in-person” days by booking meetings with others also in the office. We sit distanced, but we’re mostly in the same room. The mask requirement is lifted, although I still wear mine in public areas.

For one recurring weekly meeting, I booked a room for anybody working onsite last week. One person showed up. It was my first time meeting him in person since the project started in August 2021. Everybody else was remote. They were projected on a large screen. However, nobody else turned on their cameras. All we could see the entire meeting was a row of colored circles with people’s initials.

As we start to embrace the hybrid environment more, I wonder if people will become more strict about when it’s appropriate to be on camera. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on camera for every meeting. However, is that really so different from being in-person for every meeting? On the one side, being on camera can be exhausting. It’s hard to read body language and keep a good angle, especially when I’m working between multiple screens. And of course there are the occasions when I might get something to drink while the meeting is happening. On the other side, it can also feel exhausting to talk or present with almost no interaction.

I must confess that I get a little frustrated sometimes by the row of muted circles and lack of response. This is especially irksome when I’m presenting. Sometimes I don’t even get a digital response such as a thumbs up or clapping.

As we move forward with the new environment, I suppose we’ll strike the right balance of on camera, on site, and online time.

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