I recently returned to work after an 18-month leave. When I started my leave in 2019, everything was business as usual. This included many of the typical onsite office experiences such as collaborating on documents through email. Patchy online meetings with employees who worked at other locations. This usually ended with a conference call from a landline. Or rescheduling. Cubicle drop-bys. And mostly, commuting 5 days a week to work onsite at one of three locations.
Returning to work over a year, and one pandemic later, things are different. I expected some of the changes. However, some things have caught me by surprise. For example, all the new apps available for working online. One app is specifically for working collaboratively online. Landline phone calls come through my computer to another app. We have a chat service to replace casual cubicle drop-by conversations. The chat service deletes these conversations regularly.
The new apps are great. However, the big surprise to me was how little training I received on them. Proper guides and instructions are also lacking. So while we have all these awesome new tools, some of the work is still “business as usual.” This means relying on outdated, but familiar, ways of working.
The world changed. The workplace changed. The employees, not so much. Navigating through this familiar, but new landscape is taking some time to figure out.
Online Meeting Etiquette
Another big surprise to me is the amount of meetings. I anticipated a lot of meetings when I returned. What I hadn’t expected was the increased amount and the confusion about when to be on or off camera. Now, every casual conversation that used to happen with a drop-by, is replaced with a meeting. Or a phone call. Or sometimes casual chat messages. Since this changes based on the nature of the conversation, I’m still adapting.
As for the on/off camera confusion, I’m still working this one out. I’ve learned to always have an appropriate work shirt nearby. I also noticed some people blur their backgrounds. Or they take advantage of built-in background scenery options. Some people are always on camera. Some people are on camera for the beginning and end of the meeting, but off for the middle. Others are always off. Or only turn the camera on when they have something to say.
In time, I’m sure all these changes will feel like “business as usual.”