Lockdowns have blurred the boundaries between people’s public and private lives enabling people to see their colleagues as “whole” people, says Professor Catharine Lumby, principal of Catharine Lumby Associates.
“Where once you may have seen a suit and a man named Jeremy, now you see a dad, whose kid comes and jumps on his lap in the meeting and smears Vegemite on the screen,
“Or, you see a woman you work with who loves taking photographs as a hobby, has a gorgeous photo of clouds behind her which she proudly took and had framed.”
The lack of anonymity – the ability to see inside each others’ lives – has humanised the workforce, she explains. “Managers and leaders recognise employees and employees recognise their managers and leaders as people, living and breathing, with more to them, than their annoying Monday agenda.”
Some corporate leaders see lockdowns as “being a bit of a mixed bag”. Says Chris Thomas, a Melbourne director of wealth management business FIIG Securities – at the Melbourne branch,
“Juniors really need team-leaders to be around and show them the ropes and to be a part of ongoing conversations about how the business works,” he says.
One issue he sees is that juniors can make mistakes more easily, and that senior people can’t train their staff as effectively.
“For managers and more senior people, working from home may not make that much of a difference but most people miss the social aspect of the work environment which can help motivate them”.
Professor Lumby accepts there is a value in teams getting together physically, but suggests it may not be for many of the activities that we used to see as necessary.
“Let’s face it, it’s far better to Zoom over lunch at home than ‘brown bag’ another lunch meeting. Let’s not have meetings for the sake of having meetings. Let’s recognise we need less meetings and more time to get on with work and trust each other.
“We do not need to be in an office under surveillance to be productive. Many of us produce our best work at night or early in the morning and find time to exercise and look after people we love. The people who don’t perform will underperform in the office (Hello Facebook!) as well as at home. Most of us just do our work and get on with our lives.”
She says men have stepped up as parents and in many other ways over the past few decades, Professor Lumby says, while women have been multitasking for years.
“I see enormous benefits for anyone, women or men, who have caring responsibilities and other commitments they need to build their lives around. So now we are all in the same boat. Let’s celebrate that and work in a way that works for us all.”