I would be lying if I said I loved working in advertising only for the work, the work, the work.
Creating compelling ideas and campaigns was a passion, no doubt. But more than that, I loved being surrounded by creative people. Loved being in a team that had a client in common to win over. Soaked in the culture of an office that inspired and entertained, as much as it created and challenged.
As twists and turns would have it, I would leave Madison Avenue after 9 years to start a new adventure in Israel. I had experienced a completely new type of culture at two distinct hi-tech start-ups when the second one was acquired by a global tech giant. In just a few years, I had boomeranged back to the culture of a large corporation. I found myself on a global team, where I was in a small minority, working from outside the US.
I’ve been working from a geographical distance from my team for 5 years. Years of FOMO, as I didn’t get to participate in so many day-to-day conversations, happy hours, birthday & holiday get-togethers. Five years of working overtime to forge relationships across my team virtually could never match what most folks would get from showing up after their daily commute.
Working from home in itself is a skill to master. But in this pandemic, I see my teammates, not given a choice in the matter, now having to cope with all the very unglamorous trials of WFH that I’ve been experiencing for years.
It’s not just the luxuries of the office that they are now missing: the coffee, the cafeteria, and the high-speed internet connection. It’s the water cooler moments with colleagues, the elevator run-ins, unplanned interactions with mentors at the office. When we were physically present, those moments were a given and we took them for granted.
It’s time to get creative with our interactions.
As someone who has long battled a case of FOMO, here are some ideas to consider when you’re really missing the office and colleagues.
- Show your face. No one loves being on camera. But the conference call is obsolete, and video meetings work best when you are on video. Eye contact, reading each other’s non-verbal expressions all lead to building and evolving trust, strengthening accountability, and building connections as humans.
- Bring back the banter. Meetings shouldn’t be only transactional on work information. Start off each meeting getting somewhat personal. We are living in a time when the headlines of each passing day make our heads spin. Take some time to acknowledge each other as it doesn’t relate to work and find ways to add some levity to each other’s days.
- Revive the happy hour. The pandemic is taking toll on networking. But virtual happy hours can come alive today in a number of different ways, whether with virtual pub games, a round of show-and-tell, or inviting one or more thought-leaders who the team has lost face time with for a thought-provoking Q&A. Virtual get-togethers don’t have to be confined to those within your organization. Cultivating ideas can come from your clients, peers or even a totally unexpected voice from outside your immediate circle.
- Focus on career growth. The pandemic may have impacted the way our organizations are able to reward or promote career growth. Yet, employees are being tasked to work hard and in tougher conditions than ever. Acknowledging their efforts goes a long way to instill motivation. Take time to have those one-on-one conversations that provide an open dialogue to support and nurture our team members growth and goals.
- Double down on your open-door policy. Remind your team that you are there for them, and that they can reach you at any time, as informal as it may be. This might be obvious, but worth repeating.
Working from home (across time zones, no less) gave my colleagues a view into my life that they wouldn’t ever have seen in the office. For years they witnessed the occasional child pop by in search of something or hearing that I’ve lowered my voice a bit because the baby wasn’t settling to sleep easily.
Having worked from a distance for so long, it’s only now that I’m getting the chance to see them (and their adorable pups) in their natural element. We may not get to see each other in the office, but we really do have this amazing opportunity to see much more of each other.