Connecting with others as our bubble expands
Like many, I was delighted to hear the announcement of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand. And we plan to travel “across the ditch” soon to complete the hands-on component of our training course! It had me reflecting on how we ease the transition into face-to-face interaction and embrace working directly while retaining the benefits technology has provided.
When the announcement was made of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand opening later this month, I was excited. This finally means we can head across the Tasman to complete training we started online for our Kiwi clients. Hooray! The theory portion is done, but we’ve been waiting to be able to finish in-person training with horses.
Before this all happened, who would’ve thought that international travel would become so restricted that we’d be excited about being able to visit one of our closest neighbours. I can only imagine what it feels like for those with family they haven’t been able to see.
It also reminds me of the specific conundrum we now face – how much do we work together with people, in-person, versus online. It’s great we have so many tools for remote connection and working, but will in-person connection really be replaced, especially as it becomes more available?
A period of adjustment
Unsurprisingly, there’s been a lot of commentary about how much we go back to our previous largely office-based roles.
Some employees are dreading going back, worried about losing the work/life balance benefits such as not commuting. At the same time, employers are starting to come down on either side of the fence about whether they will return to a primarily office based environment – some are in favour, others are not. Lots are grappling with how to implement a hybrid model.
On top of this, we have to consider how much we’ve changed as a result of not working in the office. We’ve become used to working from home and that changes a lot about our behaviour; I don’t just mean wearing pyjamas, but fundamental shifts in communication, team structure and social lives.
In-person connection will never be 100% replaced, but…
My own experience shows that Zoom and other online tools are great, wonderful even. They have kept our business going these last few months and even allowed people to train with us who previously didn’t have the time or means to travel.
But especially one element of our business, Leading Edge Professional Development, will never be able to fully replace that in-person element. For us, it’s for a very simple and practical reason – we need time with horses to complete training and horses can’t use Zoom!
For others, though, it’s a more complicated proposition and one that’s already attracting a lot of time and energy. There’s many questions to consider, such as:
- How much time do we really need with each other as colleagues?
- Can we retain a sense of being a team if we’re never in the same place?
- How can we effectively lead people we aren’t physically near?
- Do we need to visit clients in person to really connect?
- How much talking through a screen can we really take?
- Will working at a non-ergonomically approved desk have long-term impacts on our health?
- Aren’t we all sick of fake Zoom backgrounds? (haha).
And, then add to that the potential for isolation – something we’re all familiar with after the past year. For the majority of us, having some human contact throughout our working day is necessary. Humans have a natural instinct to live in herds – just like horses. As someone who runs their own business (albeit alongside my business partners), I know in those weeks when I’m working on my business rather than training, I can start to feel isolated. It definitely worsens the feelings of anxiety I described last week.
It’s certainly a leadership challenge of our time!
Perhaps the answer will be something completely. Maybe we’ll see a resurgence of local communities, where instead of travelling to our workplace all the time to be part of a tribe, we will work alongside those who are nearby? Power to the humble local coffee shop…
And, of course fundamental leadership skills are going to be more important than ever – self-awareness, trust and compassion to name a few – as we negotiate our new workplaces.
Any kiwi friends out there keen to hear more about our unique leadership training? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.