Are we pulling the trigger too early?

"As humans we’re naturally adaptable and resilient so we did so through Covid, because we had no choice"

In the last few weeks I’ve attended more face to face events than I have in the entire 16 months preceding that.

I’ve had real one-to-one sessions with my team. I’ve seen a couple of clients for coffee, I went networking and we even had a lovely team dog walk this weekend in Exmouth (pictured). This got me thinking and realising how much I’d missed that interaction, but its deeper than that, it’s the fact I’d forgotten what you actually get from these face to face interactions completely. I’d become so used to the new normal, I’d tricked myself into thinking it was the same/similar to the interaction I had before.

As humans we’re naturally adaptable and resilient so we did so through Covid, because we had no choice. Its only when you really look back and think about the behavioural science that you uncover some interesting patterns.  

Here’s how I personally see the move to remote working over the last 16 months. I have a lot of friends who run businesses so I’m basing this on not just my own experiences but those of many others:

Months 1-2 – Panic – “How the hell are we going to adapt to doing everything over Zoom! You can’t possibly do everything we did before this way! It’ll be back to normal soon”

Months 3-6 – Acceptance – “Ok this is actually alright and its here to stay for a while. I’m learning new ways of working, some even have benefits. Let’s think about how we can do other things differently”

Months 6 - now – New Normal/Kidding Myself? – “This is really good. I actually think it has huge benefits. I’m never going back to that face-to-face stuff, I’m super-efficient now, locked in my bedroom all day!”

Obviously, I’ve added my own personal VAT to that. I never actually thought I’d lock myself down forever. However, joking aside, there is an important lesson/message in here. As I adapted over time, I not only started to see the positives in these new ways of working but I completely forgot what it was like to have a face-to-face meetings and all the benefits that brings. It took for me to get out and about again to remember what once was. You only miss what you remember!

It’s the little things that come back to you. The ability to stand up in the middle of a meeting and goto a flip chart so you can convey your message with images. The body language of everyone in the room, the facial expressions, the fact the world is three dimensional not a box on a computer screen. The lack of ‘zoom fatigue’. It’s the nuances that only face-face gives you.

I’ve heard a lot of companies talk about permanently moving to remote workforces or at least hybrid models and there are some really cool learnings which I’ll write about another time as I’m pretty sure we’ll do the same.

I am however just starting to question things a bit. Were these decisions made in haste? Were they made at a time where we’d forgotten the power of face-to-face interaction and engagement because we’d lived the new normal for so long? I mean we had to get on with it right? We had no choice. Did we trick ourselves…

I now wonder if a few companies will regret having made decisions on this too quickly. Twitter went remarkably early to a ‘work from home forever’ model (mid 2020). Apparently that was already in the making but a number of other companies have copied. Will they regret that I wonder? We’re purposely keeping our options open. I’m a huge fan of a flexible arrangement based on individuals needs, skills, business requirements and even some really cool stuff like circadian rhythms (I’ll let you know more on that soon). Everyday that passes and I spend more time with people again, I remember just what’s possible when you’re in that environment.

How are you feeling about things? Have you met up with people face to face again and experienced what I have? I’d love to know what your plans are.