Mask-off: the renewed awareness of humanity amidst a pandemic
By Rebecca Miles, Account Manager
Before the pandemic forced the nation to close their doors on each other, conversation over a bottle of wine at an event and informal ad-hoc lunch meetings were vital touch-stones of humanity when it came to fostering relationships with coworkers, clients and stakeholders. There is a lot to be said for the value of pulling down the corporate mask and letting the people we work with in, on a more personal level.
2020 has been a huge proof of concept for businesses when it comes to flexibility, remote working, infrastructure scalability, modernising operations – the list is extensive. This shake up is not only operational, the people behind the screens are also feeling the consequences of its reverberations. Suddenly, we were all getting comfortable with video calls as our primary form of human contact, and slowly we stopped apologising for the screaming newborns and barking dogs in the background. When it comes to “letting people in”, there’s no more clear example than the fact our colleagues could now literally see into our homes over Zoom, WebEx or Teams.
Without those humanity touchstones we were accustomed to BC (Before Covid), have we found new ways of recreating them through video calls and more regular informal checkups? Or, is informality seeping into the very fabric of what we do? Are we more frequently sending smiley faces on our emails? In place of those critical moments where we get to see the person behind the job title, which helps us all to be more efficient and work to our shared goals more successfully, have we adopted a more casual approach to business communications in general?
I had a chat with our senior team at Touchdown PR to get their thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 when it comes to maintaining more personal relationships. Our CEO, James Carter, spoke about how working parents have had to juggle more than most: “A colleague or client with young kids has had to wear a lot of hats throughout the pandemic. They are being the school teacher, a lunch cook, playmate etc all on top of their day job. Working from home has meant we no longer leave our personal stuff at the door on the neutral ground of an office space. Instead, we are in each other’s kitchens, front rooms and home offices.”
When it comes to what changes we will see well into the future of the workplace post-COVID, Lesley Booth, Client Services Director, added: “What will stick from all this? Definitely less travel. I think we’ve all proved that we can do our jobs remotely.“ Lesley also suggested the walking meeting has replaced our lunches: “It’s great to be in the outdoors, all socially distanced, and because it’s outside the confines of a video conference or an office setting, it’s less formal – but in my experience, twice as productive.”
Emily Gallagher, Executive Vice President, concluded: “I suspect the video calls will continue, as will more one-to-one conversations. I think the world has become less corporate, less formal and more adaptable. Everyone has tried to make the most of what is happening, after all we still have jobs to do, but this has allowed people to work smarter. In our world, it’s still about standing out to the media – they are probably getting invited to more webex/video meetings than ever before, so it’s about still making ourselves relevant, working with the right press and helping our clients to make an impact.”