You Are Part Of The Biggest #WFH Experiment EVER: Thoughts On Maintaining Meaningful Remote Connections

The COVID-19 pandemic is, among other things, a massive experiment in telecommuting.” – Brookings

As articles have been telling us non-stop since March, COVID-19 pressed fast-forward on film that is our lives, and we’ve been watching it all like a blur. For my library, and no doubt many others reading this, selecting and getting the tools off the ground for everyone to begin teleworking was easier than the long-haul of making them part of our new normal that we are still in the midst of. Of course we did not know when selecting platforms for tele-communication just what the ultimate duration of their usage would be. As I sit here typing this I continue to ask myself how long it will last, and as tech-savvy as I used to feel I revisit each and every day the new challenges that the mosaic of virtual workspaces, apps, and workflows relentlessly brings. To repeat my favorite keynote from CALICon over the summer yet again, “tech is easy, people are hard“.

Don’t assume people have reliable technology access or understand particular digital platforms.” – The Conversation

The tech that helped initially is not and perhaps never will be a replacement for the casual moments around the office. Stopping by a colleague’s door or talking things out as you pass in the reading room not only happens less and less but has become more awkward than ever before. On top of that, knowing which platform to select for any random communication can be a chore in and of itself. Second-guessing that email wording, length and necessity is at an all time high. How many Slack messages have I typed and instantly deleted OR worse yet typed 5 times only to never send at all? (Answer = WAY too many to confess).

Articles continue to ask us to swallow the (im)possibility pill that “managers and employees can adapt quickly in a time of increased stress”. – Perceptyx

Some technology choices have unnecessarily brought along exclusivity that was unintended, but we reassured ourselves that this was only temporary. All the while, others have experienced increased inclusivity; employees who prior to the pandemic interacted less often or not at all are more involved than before. It can be harder to speak up in some large Zoom meetings and feel like you are heard, while on the flip side easier to candidly talk to some people in smaller Zoom gatherings than ever before. I have found it feels easier to schedule meetings with others, however everyone I know is way over scheduled (enter Zoom fatigue) because unspoken expectations about how much we can multitask are at an all time high.

Video calls seemed an elegant solution to remote work, but they wear on the psyche in complicated ways.” – National Geographic

Intertwined with everything are our external, situational burdens that each and every person carries with them no matter where they are working from. Are family and friends OK? Trying to keep up with the COVID data for your area, or the areas where those you know and love live? Are you still able to have “water cooler” conversations with coworkers? Is small-talk still happening, and if so how and when? Communications are breaking down while our collective anxieties are building up, uP, UP!

If widespread remote work sticks around, those relationships will never be the same.” – The Atlantic

I’ve struggled to blog about the ebb and flow of solutions and challenges all year long, and I’ve been comforted by reading others from across AALL-SIS’s doing the same. We are still riding this wave of perpetual tele-tech transmutation as we are catapulted into Fall 2020. I invite you to join me and fellow AALL member Ben Doherty a.k.a. author of “The Diary of a Lonely Librarian” for the next Virtual Coffee Chat on Monday October 19th at 3 PM Central as we engage with law librarians to share what has worked for their libraries or what challenges they are experiencing when it comes to maintaining remote connections. Registration closes this Friday October 16th!

Metadata Services & Special Collections Librarian at UGA Law Library