You didn’t receive a new contract, no one hired you, and you certainly didn’t receive a pay rise or any added benefits. Yet, you have a new job, a new job masquerading under the title of your old one. A job that demands different skills and competencies than the one you had before. A job where some will shine, and some will feel desperately disillusioned.
Your new role
You might have been an amazing facilitator, or an amazing creative that when you're in a room you are the brilliant design guru. With buckets of charisma and passion to push your project to peak performance. However, all of a sudden you can’t flourish in your role the way you did before. Now we are working from home, the job of a facilitator is less about being physically dynamic and quick on your feet in a room full of people. It becomes more about how you juggle the digital admin of setting up a group of people, and managing their interactions, so that digital limitations do not affect the group dynamic. That design guru can no longer rely on their in-person group interactions, instead it becomes how good they are at writing that email or interpreting that DM message. They can no longer spend hours in workshops, meaning collaboration becomes about highly concise interactions. Rather than the dynamic brainstorms we are used to.
The social disconnect
We might have chosen our field for interactions exactly like these, travelling, on our feet, meeting new clients and colleagues and socialising after our meetings. Yet suddenly, all we have is the bright screen of our computers, and a brain which is no longer lighting up with the chemicals of connection, anticipation or the relief of a job well done performed in front of a room full of people. Some may thrive in this new world. Many of my introverted friends and colleagues seem to be enjoying this new set-up. Yet I wonder? Even introverts need social connection, even if it's one-on-one, or in small groups. And what of those who have moved to new cities, or don’t have a support network of family and friends at their fingertips. For them, work was their place to connect (whether they were wild about their colleagues or not). Now, they have nothing, but a room, and digital simulacrums on their pulsing blue screens. No more coffee, no more popping out on your lunch breaks, no more of the energy or excitement of seeing your colleagues and connecting. No more going to see a friend after work, because you happen to be in the same part of town.
The eye in the cloud
Furthermore, at our desks, in our own homes, we are being watched, forced to show our personal spaces on video calls, or reveal the dynamics of our home life in the background. Chained to our little black screens, our green light watched on endless digital platforms like a nightmarish Panopticon. Some of us holed up in tiny bedrooms in shared houses. Or kids screaming in the background, partners returning from work, wondering if we were at home all day, surely we would have had time to empty the dishwasher? Of course it’s not all bad, many of us are saying goodbye to grinding commutes, and uncomfortable office environments. We’re discovering more hours in our day. Yet work finds a way to creep into those hours, if you’re at home, surely there’s nothing better to do than more work, right? Our work day begins to stretch from 9am-6pm, to 8am-8pm, our digital devices always buzzing, ringing and chiming for attention.
We need to do better, and we need to acknowledge that these new job roles might not be for us. Indeed, there may be other job roles that we would enjoy much more in a working from home environment. For now, many of us are just grateful to have a job, but at what cost? The first step is acknowledging that our jobs are different, some good and some bad. The next step is figuring out what we want to do about it.