By Angela Copeland
We’ve now been living in a pandemic for almost one year. It felt like things couldn’t get any stranger. Then, the last two weeks happened. A massive winter storm blanketed much of the country. States struggled to get the impact of the storms under control. Texas was one of the most extreme examples, with many, many people completely losing power. In other areas of the country, there were other issues, including a lack of water or other resources.
With many people working remotely, some employees have moved to another city temporarily. This has had many advantages. Employees have been able to spend more time with aging parents. They’ve been able to spend more time at their weekend homes.
But the last two weeks revealed a challenge. With employees distributed around the country, our experiences are no longer universal. Not everyone is going through the same weather. Not everyone is struggling through the same issues. With different family situations, this was already true, but the storms highlighted it again.
On Zoom, everyone appears the same. Unless coworkers share, it’s easy to remain unaware. We assume everything is fine. But this invisible difference has been a theme throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We are each having our own unique experience.
Some employees have small children at home they are trying to care for when no one is looking. Some have extra family members living with them who are out of work due to the pandemic. Some are trying to manage aging parents from a distance.
We are all going through the normal phases of life, including birth, celebrations, and loss. But, on camera, we are more disconnected from one another at work. We are less likely to realize when a coworker is struggling. We are less aware of what a hard time they may be having.
And, to a certain degree, it makes sense. Our businesses are struggling to stay in business. How do we find the time to care about basic day to day problems? We’re fighting just to make it through the pandemic. We’re doing our best to stay employed.
It feels important to recognize that we’re each having a unique experience. Frankly, the impact of the pandemic has been harder on some people at your company than others. That’s the nature of this separation and isolation from one another. We have removed many of the normal social supports that are in place. We’re left to get by on what we can do solo.
At work, try to remember that we’re all in this together. Try to be patient with one another. Try to check in on each other.
Ask your coworkers real questions beyond what you’re meeting about. Video meetings have made it harder to have personal interactions. Ask about children. Ask about pets. Ask about parents. To know what is really going on beyond the Zoom meetings, we must ask one another.
Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.