Twenty years ago, I was part of a task force at AT&T Wireless to study work-from-home from every aspect. The company had a goal of closing several office buildings across the U.S. to reduce costs. Our task force considered many perspectives, including:
- Being a WFH employee
- Managing WFH employees
- Technology considerations
- Security considerations
- Corporate policy considerations
- Workplace regulations
This experience equipped me with considerable insight that would prove valuable through much of my career. From the early 2000s, I was a part-time WFH employee, switching to full-time in 2014 when I joined Optiv Security. At GCI Communications, I continue to be full-time WFH.
I’ve seen companies struggle with the transition to WFH – culturally and the learning curve of videoconferencing technology and etiquette. For many of us at Optiv, WFH was just another workday. When I joined GCI in August 2020, WFH was in full swing, and the workforce had gotten over the initial bumps (there is no question that the pandemic has resulted in the unemployment of millions of people, causing widespread financial hardship).
For me, there is a silver lining for the pandemic-induced global WFH. During our videoconference meetings throughout the week, we experience more than just the work side of our colleagues:
- Virtual backgrounds aside, we get a glimpse into their homes
- Sometimes we’ll see what’s going on inside or outside
- Young children sometimes appear, for a moment but sometimes longer
- Cats, dogs, bunnies, and more are seen and/or heard
- Spouses and other family members are sometimes seen and occasionally introduced and conversed with
- Other sights and sounds, including leaf blowers, garbage trucks, sirens, deliveries, and more
Depending upon the formality of the culture and of individual meetings, these are not “interruptions.” Instead, I consider them as a window into the lives of my colleagues, with a potent reminder that we all have homes, families, and lives away from work.
Before the pandemic and before WFH, we could easily compartmentalize our lives into our work life and our home life, and often these remained separate. At work, we would primarily see the work side of each of our colleagues. The pandemic caused these worlds to collide, resulting in the blending of these former separate personas. It reminds me that we are all human.