I’m conducting meetings in my bedroom, in the living room, and (when the sun is out) on our outdoor patio.
When I started my fellowship on the future of work in September, I was inspired by companies who were pioneering future-of-work practices like remote work and began thinking about the infrastructure and policies we would need at CNM to implement some of these promising future-of-work options. I don’t think any of us could have imagined that we would be where we are this week – trying to figure out how to transition a large organization that was firmly grounded in the traditions of face-to-face workplace work, to remote work—in a matter of days.
After downloading a 3rd kind of meeting software onto my laptop, I sent a frustrated “your directions don’t work” email, only to discover it wasn’t the directions…it was the user.
It isn’t pretty – in fact, it’s downright messy. And why wouldn’t it be? There are companies that have for years been implementing remote work policies and practices and they are still trying to figure out how to do so effectively. We are definitely not getting the chance to implement this practice in ideal circumstances. We don’t all have access to the right devices, the right tools, or the right training to make this a smooth transition.
I was facilitating my first remote team meeting and the two teens in our house could be heard asking me if they can have a snack (10 minutes after finishing lunch!).
Like me, I am guessing many of you don’t have an ideal home environment for working remotely. My partner is conducting remote meetings in the back of the house while I do the same at the front of the house. It is fun to see how each of us operates in our work roles, but it also is distracting and lacks necessary privacy. Add the fact that many of us also have kids who are at home because of school closures, and so we are trying to figure out how we monitor, entertain, and engage them—all while trying to do remote work. Even when I successfully manage to get the kids occupied during a video meeting with colleagues (using bribes I once would have condemned as not-so-good-parenting), some other home interference occurs like the dang neurotic dogs barking at the wind in the background.
I couldn’t figure out how to virtually raise my hand in a senior leadership meeting.
Having had to start remote work before COVID-19 resulted in this transition for CNM (because of a personal medical crisis), I am so grateful for the option of remote work. But, even though I have found the technology works fairly well to connect, collaborate, and ideate with my colleagues, I am also already desperately missing in-person connections. And as a closet introvert who once swore I could go two weeks and not talk to a soul, I think it might be incredibly lonely living by oneself right now.
This weekend I had a “remote happy hour” with a couple of girlfriends. Sigh.
As we continue the work of the college, to retain our incomes, progress towards educational goals, and for some sense of normalcy and purpose, we need to continue to find ways to stay connected to our community. CNM has a tradition of caring for and being responsive to our community needs. We have students and employees who are and will experience incredible and real hardships during this time and we cannot forget this. There are several emerging efforts among our faculty and staff to organize support for our community members in need, and I am going to find ways that I can do more to support these efforts.
The pile of dirty laundry we haven’t been able to get done in the last week (due to navigating too many health crises), and I may have been showing on my last video conference call.
As we emerge from our emergency remote response, I think that we must do so with a new commitment to what I believe is the “why” of implementing remote work policies—and that is to create greater equity through access to flexible work options. I hope we can help develop policies and practices that allow us to embrace the advantages of multiple work options; providing employees and students expanded access to engage in different ways of working (and learning) as our personal and professional lives evolve and change in unanticipated ways.
Stay safe, find something to make you laugh, and help nurture community and hope.