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There's Next-Level Humanity in Remote Work and I Am Here for It

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp on

The polar vortex struck this week and blew my whole week sideways. School was canceled for my son but included homework packets to complete during the days off. I'm grateful that my job is one I can do from home. In fact, I work from home most days. But my new intern started this week, and I had been looking forward to getting him started in a way that did not include the chaos of my 8-year-old also needing help with remote learning.

But that's life, and perhaps it is one of the gifts the pandemic offered. Working remotely from our living room or kitchen table lets us meet our colleagues' pets and family members, it reveals home decor and more. All in the comfort of sweatpants and fuzzy socks. We've all seen the remote-work mishaps gone viral -- the lawyer who appeared in court as a cat and the father whose children sauntered into the room during a live television interview. So funny and oh, so relatable.

Studies like one from MIT's Human Dynamics Lab show that the most valuable communication is done in person. Body language, that proverbial firm handshake or just the fact that people tend to be more present and give you their full attention are all perks of in-person work. Online meetings are easier for people to multitask and dip in and out of conversation as needed.

However, in-person meetings can be a privilege. The fact that I can work from home makes school snow days much more manageable and less expensive for our family. I also know that not all jobs have that flexibility and so snow days for many equal lost income. In-person meeting requirements can also be ableist. I have an autoimmune disease, so on bad days, my job flexibility means that I can work comfortably from my home instead of using precious energy to make the trek to the office just so I can log into my computer from there. It doesn't make sense for people with disabilities. Of course I want to see my colleagues, but do I need to see them in person every single day when my work is computer-based? I don't think so. I'd rather be home where I can use my energy to get the job done while letting my dog out when she needs to go.

Even the intern I hired is working remotely while he handles his semester's course load. Remote work is here to stay, and I am so grateful that more and more employers are seeing the benefit of its flexibility. Does it require some managers to let go of micromanaging their staff? Maybe. It also requires trust while developing communication skills.

 

Perhaps I cannot shake a hand or chat at the water cooler, but there's humanity found in remote work, too -- like when my son pops into the room on a snow day to ask if he can have a snack, or when my dog barks at the delivery driver. These are all peeks into my home and into my life that perhaps take the edge off in professional conversations. Pets definitely steal the show of every virtual meeting. I also get the need to be off-camera sometimes. It's a function that gives us privacy. Either way, I welcome the opportunity to get a glimpse of my colleagues as whole humans of whom work is a small part. That's the modern work relationship that COVID-19 helped normalize, and I am here for it.

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Check out Bonnie's weekly YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/bonniejeanfeldkamp. To find out more about Bonnie Jean Feldkamp and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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