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Let Them See You

Perhaps I am indulging a long-harbored fantasy, but I think a cultural, workplace revolution is in the works. It’s a little uncomfortable, and potentially very cool.

The revolution will dispel the myth about the separation of home and work. It’s been brewing for a while, due in large part to ever-better technology that enables greater flexibility and availability. But now that the workplace has suddenly moved home, en masse, without warning or time to curate how we will present ourselves, our colleagues are seeing new facets of our lives.

It’s a crash course in humanity and authenticity, complemented by a heavy dose of COVID-inspired anxiety and discomfort.

For those of us lucky enough to be working at home, we recognize important advantages. We feel grateful to be employed, while maintaining greater choice about physical distancing and safeguarding our health. We are enjoying stretchy pants and slippered commutes. But we also notice resistance and uncertainty. Maybe we feel exposed by lack of privacy, or we are physically uncomfortable due to a suboptimal workspace setup. Perhaps we feel vulnerable about whether our supervisor perceives we are working hard enough. We miss casual banter with colleagues. There’s literally no separation of home and work, and it feels awkward.

I’m bearing witness to the struggle, and I feel oddly liberated. I have worked from home for many years, shushing the kids and dog, trying to hide the stained carpet in my home office during video conferences, and hoping nobody notices that I’m emailing from the carpool line on a Tuesday afternoon.

Now, the truth is out. Our personal life is always intruding on (and contributing to) our work life, and vice versa. Sure, these days it’s a perceptible intrusion. Somebody walks into your video conference frame (hopefully with pants on) or the dog barks during your call with your boss. But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. The real truth is all the ice that lies beneath. Messy, anxious, afraid, angry feelings, as well as joy, gratitude, compassion, laughter. You bring it all into your work and your personal life. And that mishmosh is just as it should be.

So, bandwidth permitting, turn on the camera during video conferences. Let your colleagues really see you. Share your sweatpants, clutter and beta fish. It’s ok (maybe it’s even great) if they glimpse the people who matter most to you. And let your loved ones see you work. Perhaps there’s a moment to virtually introduce them to some colleagues. Or allow them to review or contribute to something you’re working on (check out my 11 year-old daughter’s new marketing campaign for M2!). All of it can build relationships during a time when we especially benefit from opportunities to connect with others.

The mishmosh revolution is here. Let it be.


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