Someone had clearly taught me that this was a key skill that would give my career a boost. What I didn’t know, is that almost everyone else wrote that on their CV, along with the fact they were a “team player” and “self-motivated.”
Fast forward several years and it is very clear that communication skills are so important, especially in these bizarre times. If it wasn’t for great technology, I’d probably not have been able to start a new job from home and I’d be feeling very distant from friends and family.
I’ve always loved the idea of being home-based, avoiding the Thameslink, saving myself two hours a day by not commuting and being able to have scrambled eggs on toast for lunch. (This is not possible in the office, anyone who microwaves eggs should have a good long hard look at themselves in the mirror!)
While the remote induction has been incredibly well organised and executed, working remotely has its challenges, not least because it’s something I’ve never done before long-term. I still miss the “buzz” of an office, I miss being around people (I’m an extrovert) and having the ability to pop my head up and see who is around to help and learning who is most helpful at what.
Although video conferencing isn’t quite as magical as I would have liked, it has been pretty good. Personally, I am still waiting for the holographic meetings which were promised by the sci-films of the 90’s.
Zoom (other providers are available) has filled a lot of gaps, it has enabled me to feel like I’m still in an office. By screen sharing, it is almost like I am sat next to my colleagues as they guide me through a process or a document. Though I still regularly point at the screen with my finger and say “there”, even though I know they can’t see where my finger is pointing to. We also have weekly virtual “coffee chats” with the team at the start and end of the week and also weekly team meetings for training and work stuff.
Zoom has also been a great substitute for face to face meetings with clients, whether this be annual reviews, brand new clients or simply completing forms together. It has largely enabled businesses to continue as normal giving clients the service they deserve.
On the more personal side of things, FaceTime has enabled me to keep in touch with family, including my two-year-old nephew, Archie. It is amazing to still be able to watch him grow and that he can still recognises us even though we haven’t seen him in person. He has now got used to how FaceTime works and doesn’t ask if “Lolly” (his grandma) is there when I call, because he understands we don’t all live in the phone. I’ve also been able to chat to my Nan, who I’ve not been able to see in person since March and keep in touch with other friends and family. I even had a Zoom hen do and may well have a Zoom wedding at this rate…
Thanks to YouTube, we were able to “attend” church during lockdown. Now that we’re able to go back, we’ve kept it up and tune in each week from the sofa in our pyjamas with a cup of tea. While my fiancé prefers this approach, I rather miss chatting to everyone after the service, even though because of the face masks I could barely understand anything anyone said! More on that later…
There is so much of the real world that technology can help us recreate. This week’s CISI conference used Remo, a platform which attempts to mirror the networking that many of us enjoy at these events. You can move around virtual tables and have a chat with your peers. I’m very much looking forward to trying this out!
But technology hasn’t quite been the silver bullet we’d perhaps thought it was. There is something about video conferencing that isn’t the same as face to face contact and I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Perhaps it’s the subtle facial clues that aren’t picked up through a screen. This makes it much more difficult to read a person and interpret their feelings and respond accordingly, even if it is quite slight.
It was only when I watched back a recording from a client meeting that I realised that we have a bizarre choice; to either stare at the computer camera and give the client the impression we’re looking into their eyes but inadvertently miss their facial expressions, or we can talk to their face on the screen to pick up on their body language…. but this appears to the client as though you are looking down slightly. Technology can resolve this, but it hasn’t yet made its way on to the big screen of your computer. Apple use a nifty trick on FaceTime to make it look like you are looking at the camera even when you are staring at the screen of your iPhone.
Aside from technology, there are other issues the pandemic has brought about when it comes to communicating; face masks! I find it really difficult to understand what people are saying with them on, their voices are muffled and perhaps my brain is used to backing up what it hears with lip reading. Those with hearing impairments who lip read alone must feel incredibly frustrated and isolated. I have seen face masks with a cut out and clear plastic that I wish were more widely available!
For me, I’ve seen face masks bring about a completely unforeseen issue. While buying a bottle of wine a few months ago, I was asked for ID. This made my day until the cashier told me that face masks make it difficult to age people. Charming.
While technology has really helped me professionally and personally during this global pandemic, I for one am looking forward to getting back to the office, giving my friends and family a hug and feeling youthful the next time someone asks me for ID!
Who would have thought this time last year, that all of this would have happened and there would be all these challenges to overcome, technologically and personally? In the time when you’re struggling, it is hard to see an end and feel positive.
I think it’s important to take a minute and look back at how we’ve all survived and give yourself a pat on the back. We all thought back in March this would be a sprint, and we dove headfirst into Zoom quizzes, puzzles and projects. Now, this looks like more of a marathon and perhaps we’ve not paced ourselves. So, it’s time to give yourself some credit!