by Chris Hayes
April 06, 2020
We'll never forget the time that the workforce went home for a lot of reasons, but we'll always think fondly about the little bit of joy our coworkers could bring from these big changes. In the age of social distancing, boardrooms are barren and our only worktime face time is online… So why not make these tough times a good time?
At work it might be a few family photos, vacation trinkets, a struggling plant, and bobbleheads collected throughout the years. At home? It's a much more personal environment that will show off a lot more than what your desk can fit. Outfit your work-from-home space with décor and style that suits you best and be aware of what's visible on screen. Go the extra mile and ensure that your aesthetic is both tasteful and webcam-friendly given your lighting.
Remember-- it goes both ways. Even if your foreground is a mess and you can't see your desktop through the piles of papers, tidy up what meets the eye. Sure, it'll make you look good on camera, but when your working hours stop, keeping your space clean is a sure-fire way to keep up your morale.
Weird Flex but OK: It's fine to show off a little bit. Frame your master's degree and hang it over your shoulder, prominently display your most pretentious personal reads (Infinite Jest, anyone?), and show off a little bit. I might not have a lot to flaunt, but I'll admit… It's nice when my super cute cat cozies up just out of reach but still in sight.
By now we've all seen it. There's the woman who turned herself into a potato (and got stuck) during a Teams meeting, a guy who's been spicing up his online classes with carefully-crafted costumes of everything from Flo from Progressive to Marty McFly from Back to the Future, and endless others who have taken advantage of Zoom's custom backgrounds and other downloadable filters.
Have a little fun when you're in the least formal of meetings. You don’t need to go too far, but who knows, maybe changing your background to an iconic scene from Office Space might bring a smile to somebody's face. If you had the foresight to take a picture of your cubicle or office before quarantine, take a trip to the uncanny valley with a background that feels almost ancient by now.
Know Your Audience: This has to go without saying, but this isn't the move when you're on a call with the c-suite, but if you want to pepper in a bit of fun with your closest coworkers in laid-back settings, go for it. Just… Make sure it's totally SFW and don't blame me if it goes totally off the rails, okay?
A few months ago there was nothing like a 5 o'clock "meeting" at a tapas restaurant with great specials. Now? We're tapping glasses with our laptop webcams and we're less worried about our pajama pants showing on camera. You still have to say "throw something on my Outlook calendar," just make sure that has a Zoom or Teams link attached to it.
Make it Extra Happy: A friend of mine Facetimed me with a crudely fashioned mullet and his beard trimmed into an unsettlingly neat handlebar 'stache. His marketing firm shares our nationwide love of Netflix's Tiger King¸ so they all dressed the part before signing on. Add a little excitement to your online watercooler with a theme, no matter how exotic it may be.
When worlds collide and walking home from work is a trip down the hallway, why not bring a little bit of our offline persona to the group? Explore the secret talents of your team and take a second to appreciate your coworkers' passions. Sign off of stand-up meetings with a quick 2 minutes of talent, be it the musical stylings of Steve from accounting, Anne from sales' latest painting, or a limerick from Dave in marketing.
Better yet, merge this tip with a digital happy hour to host an afterhours talent show. Roll these unique skills into a team or company-wide showcase of the hidden talents of your organization. Let each department's lowkey superstars surprise you without encroaching on business hours and raise a glass while you cheer them on.
Get the Band Back Together: If it turns out that Steve in accounting isn't the only musician, who knows who else plays what? With lag and logistics it's rough to foster real-time collaboration, but there's a trend among musicians to create virtual jam sessions through individually-recorded sessions. Once you've shared your passions, who knows what can come next. Invite me. I'll bring my accordion… I swear it doesn't sound like a dying goose.
It's easy to burn out when we're up against big changes. Sometimes it's even harder to watch our strong, dependable teammates feel the weight of the sudden work-from-home shift. Even in the most straight-laced, professional, and demanding environments, remember to add a little levity and fun to your workday. The subtle stress relievers we took for granted--a trip to the coffee pot, a smile in the hallway, walking into the building with someone you don't get to see that often--are on hold for a while and, in their place, there's room for new options to take the lead. Hang in there, from all of us at Team Hubbub to you.
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