Ready for things to get back to normal? Unless you were already a recluse, this time of “social distancing” is an uncomfortable and awkward experience. We had important things to do, and all of a sudden were told to just “shelter-in-place” until the danger passes.
By now, a few weeks in, it starts to dawn on you that there will be no easy re-start to the way things used to be. It is impossible to go through this experience and expect to remain unchanged. No matter how resolute you are, the circumstances we all operate under will not return to the “good old days.”
I was a participant in one of the first “online” meetings of the AGMA Helical Gear Rating Committee back around the “turn-of-the-century.” It was held to keep the work going in between face-to-face gatherings as companies cut back on travel budgets. We had so much to learn about teleconferencing; it felt strange to have so much technology between us. There were technical problems; there were issues with talking over each other. We missed out on the “body language” cues that previously alerted us to hurt feelings or a desire to speak or take a break. We missed taking breaks, actually.
So many things got done during breaks. Ruffled feathers were soothed, new members were welcomed; friendships started or were deepened with stories and jokes. In many ways the true value of the face-to-face meeting to the participating companies lay in those informal exchanges when the official clock was paused.
Fast-forward to today — most of the technical committees meet frequently over the Internet. Members have gotten very good at getting things done this way and do not consider virtual meetings to be a step down from “real” sessions. The technology is much better, of course, but the participants have adapted as well.
I suspect this extended period of working from home will have a similar effect once we return to our “regular programming.” It is my hope that we will place less emphasis on “face time” and more on results. Perhaps should we put more effort into appreciating our co-workers and the great things we can do as a team.