Before COVID-19 made “sheltering in place” more than just an introvert’s ideal weekend, the word “community” evoked thoughts of gathering together, lending a hand and creating social connections with like-minded friends and neighbors.
Granted, none of that has changed, but we’ve now relegated all that togetherness to cyberspace, and it happened practically overnight. The coronavirus altered our reality, and nowhere is it more obvious than in the ways we communicate and relate.
An unintended, and perhaps unexpected, end-result of this new reality is virtually flattening the corporate hierarchy and replacing it with genuine community.
We’re getting to know our colleagues and leaders – really know them – maybe for the first time, as we see one another in our real lives. Could it be that people are even more real on camera?
At home we’re with the people and things we love most; it’s where we’re the most comfortable and are able to be the truest versions of ourselves. Getting a glimpse into that – meeting people’s spouses, kids and pets, being with them in their kitchens, on their decks, in their home offices – creates a new level of intimacy and vulnerability. The traditional, corporate office culture and company hierarchies come crashing down.
Amid the scramble of creating makeshift offices and balancing the needs of family members now living and working together 24/7, something interesting happened. A new camaraderie has developed, and leaders have begun to lead differently. CEOs, senior leaders, managers, individual contributors – everyone is in the trenches together. Separation by level is a thing of the past.
No one has a corner office anymore, and everyone has had moments where their kids or pets have wreaked havoc during an important meeting. Dress codes across the board consist of athleisure and baseball caps. No one is shaving. And everyone is willing to be a little sillier to provide a few moments of much-needed laughter during a time that’s universally scary and uncertain.
Talk about community.
Our new normal involves video conferencing and new tech tools, sure, but it also eliminates (or at least lessens) the separation between our work selves and home selves. By bringing those two personas together, teams are reflecting a deep authenticity.
Let’s hope this newfound willingness to overlook the things that don’t matter lasts when we’ve come through the other side of this. Companies are creating a new sense of community during this terrible crisis while trying to keep their doors open, taking care of employees and serving their customers.
For people looking to find the bright spots where they can, losing the worst parts of office culture has been an unexpected but nice surprise.
Also, wearing sweatpants to work isn’t bad either.