A Lesser Appreciated Benefit to Working from Home

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This is not my typical blog focused on marriage – sorry in advance for that. But it is about relationships, and you may see a connection.

For the past few months, most of us that still have jobs have found ourselves working from home. Much has been written and discussed about both the benefits and the drawbacks of this unique situation. But I want to focus on one area that I have not seen discussed.

Let me start this by saying that for years I have worked with Corporate Teams, in an effort to improve their effectiveness and their efficiency. One of the key areas I have focused on is the relationship that team members have with one another. I am a big believer that trust and respect are huge, though somewhat hard to measure aspects of a high performance team. When I’ve worked with teams, I try to help individuals see their co-workers as a “complete” person, not just the guy with the desk next to them. There are benefits related to this. You may not appreciate some of the skills or aptitudes your teammate has if they are not directly related to their job description.

Let me give you an example. I have a friend that is an accountant. As soon as I give his job title, you immediately form impressions of him in your mind – it’s natural. You think of a person that is black and white, very precise, numbers oriented and highly structured. In terms of his job performance, those may all be accurate. But I don’t work with him, I see him as a friend and as a family guy. He is very creative, and can build practically anything in his workshop at home. Be it parade floats for his daughter’s girl scout troop, or rebuilding an old Jeep for his son, there seems to be no type of home or construction project he won’t undertake.So imagine his company undertaking a special project, that involves creativity, problem solving and the ability to make something out of nothing. Most companies would go straight to marketing or product development, they’d never consider talking to the accounting department. And in this case, that would be their loss.

As people begin to understand and appreciate the families, interests and abilities of their co-workers, they begin to see them as a whole person. This can be tough under the day to day pressures of getting the job done. That’s where this whole working from home thing could become a blessing.

As I have worked with a variety of people via video conferencing, I feel I learn a lot about them just through observation. I may have already appreciated their technical abilities, but I had no idea they had three dogs, until they ran across the screen. My opinions have changed when I have seen what I considered to be a harsh, no-nonsense individual show tenderness to their special needs child when they came into the view of the camera. I may have never thought about a person being married and having a family until I see life happening in the background.

I think unveiling peoples’ lives a bit will transform the relationship between coworkers once they are back in the same office. Empathy will increase and appreciation of the whole person will begin to take root.

We’re in a strange time, but I think we can all grow and benefit from it if we just allow ourselves to.

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