Most people who know me well, know that I am a pretty natural introvert. I can extrovert well when needed, but I prefer quiet bars, small dinner parties at home, and Sundays spent writing and reading. Like many of my kind (introverts, not curly headed women), when we decided as a company to work remotely for a “couple of weeks” to let this pandemic pass, I could see the upside of a little more time at home.
Fast forward 365 days…
I can count the number of times I’ve been to the office in the last year on 2 hands. When we went into the first lockdown, I had only been with my company 6 weeks. In the next 6 weeks, I designed a new team structure, presented a product strategy, took on the leadership of the engineering team, and navigated a round of furloughs.
Here are some things I learned…
- Even when relationship building is one of your strengths, some situations make you have to question everything you know about creating connection
- If you are someone who relies on body language and room energy, you will feel like someone has cut off your thumb and a couple of fingers and asked you to pick up a steaming hot cup of coffee when you are trying to use these skills via zoom
- Just because the kitchen is 6 feet over there (points in that direction), doesn’t mean you will suddenly drink enough water to stay hydrated
- You will be lonely. Your team will be lonely. There will be some things you can do about it. And in the end, loneliness will be the affliction of the masses in times like these. But…trying matters. Effort counts. Showing care and compassion will not go out of style.
- Speaking of loneliness…the higher you rise in leadership, the lonelier it will be. And the more you will not be able to discuss it. Because frankly complaining about being at leader is bougie and privileged. But for all it’s bougie-ness, it will still feel fucking hard
- You will second guess all your decorating decisions because you now have to look at them every day all day long. Who picked that stupid couch? Oh…that was me. Good going genius!
- Major life decisions will be hotly debated among you and your closest circle. If you are married you’ll wonder from time to time, why you picked that person. If you are single, you’ll rethink your last couple of breakups and wonder what it would have been like to quarantine with that person (not good…no matter how cool he was. NOT. GOOD.) You will question your most recent decisions about houses, pets, cities, jobs. It’s just part of the process of the imagination running wild.
- On that note…you will not (perhaps should not) make major life changing new decisions after 100 (or 250 or 365) days holed up in mostly one place. This is not good data analysis. Don’t do it. Get some perspective. Ask questions. Make sure you aren’t making life altering decisions because you are bored or annoyed or miss good tacos (For real…I would kill for a good taco. Sorry Berlin…you suck in this regard.)
- One some days, putting on makeup and combing your hair will make you feel human again. On other days, the mere lifting of the brushes will make you want to scream. You will find yourself using the same argument you used with your mom about making the bed every morning…”Why bother if all I’m going to do is take this makeup off again tonight?” (PS…That was always true. It just feels more true when you put makeup on to NOT leave the house.)
- Leggings are acceptable as pants. Real pants are acceptable as torture devices. Why bother?
- Setting and sharing vision will be harder…but not impossible. You can cast a vision via Zoom and video and documents. Your team can attach to the future and dream with you. Trust yourself. Trust them. The future is just as important…no, wait…more important than ever. Dream big!!
- Buy the damn chair! If your ass is sitting on an uncomfortable chair because “remote work is only temporary”, it is time for you to get a clue. (I’m talking to you Leah. Who me? YES YOU!) Your back hurts? Get the chair. You’ve realized your posture is now shaped like a question mark? Get the chair. It’s okay because you’ll change to another location during the day? No you won’t. Get the damn chair.
- Ask how others are doing. Ask how they are feeling. Ask what they need. Ask what is challenging them. Ask what they are looking forward to. Ask who or what they miss. Ask again what they need…because most people won’t tell you the first time
- See that list in the last bullet…find someone and tell them your answers. Call them. Zoom them. Slack them. Email them. Send an Owl. But for the love of good tacos (a god to some), tell someone what you need because what you need matters
What I know for sure is that it is okay not to be okay. Fresh air is important. Getting sunshine on your face is essential. Drinking water is key (get up…it’s 6 feet over there!) Check in on your people. Check in with yourself. Hold tightly to your dreams and ambition. Cut yourself some slack…extend grace to yourself and others. Ask for help…for fuck sake…ASK FOR HELP!