The "new" new ways of working are not normal

Apr 13, 2020  ·  Brenda Leeuwenberg

We’re over the halfway mark of our initial lockdown period and there’s been a dramatic series of pivots going on as people and organisations re-evaluate what’s important, what their business needs to survive, and how to keep people busy and productive.



The irony of there really being ‘new ways of working’ now is not lost on me - as opposed to what we’ve been calling new ways of working over the last year or more; which are actually not new at all and just sensible, efficient and fit for future ways of working.



But here we are, figuring out the new new.



As coaches and consultants, we have a fair bit of experience with running remote meetings, facilitating planning sessions, coordinating communications between remote team members. And like pretty much every Agile coach out there, we’re putting our hands up to say “Hey, we can help you figure this stuff out”.



But there is one big mistake that many people are making that has the potential to suckerpunch any attempts to be productive, healthy teams in the remote world. Many people have failed to understand that working from home, and being online is not just transferring a 9-5 office rhythm to one in front of your webcam.



Spending 8 hours a day jumping from one Zoom meeting to another is exhausting. Way more exhausting than the real world equivalent (which is bad enough). For various reasons, such as being able to see yourself throughout a conversation, the sheer volume of online calls and chats we’re suddenly engaging in, the fact that we’re suddenly unavoidably face-to-face with people for long periods of time, that our minds need to process the facade of being socially connected against the reality of being physically isolated, and that our personal and work lives now all revolve around a screen.



We’re seeing reactions from our clients that range from ‘how can I trust my people are spending 8 hours a day working’ to ‘I need people to take more breaks’.



Much has been written in the last week particularly about Zoom exhaustion, and helpful hints for avoiding it. I don’t need to replicate that here - to talk more about taking breaks, scheduling offscreen time, not multi-tasking or including your pets.



What I want to emphasize is the need to calm the fuck down people. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Life is not normal. This is not the new normal way of working. Cut yourselves some slack. And don’t spend your whole day online trying to be what you were offline.



When things do get back to ‘normal’, one thing we are all talking about is that it won’t be the normal we had before. But I’m sure that the new normal, while it will certainly involve remote working somehow, won’t be about 8 hour days on Zoom calls.




Categories: Personal Productivity, Remote Working.

Tags: remote, zoom, online working, remote working, meetings, video conference.