I’ve been working remotely for more than a decade. And no matter how many great tech products come out to make remote work easier, I’m even more convinced that the ultimate success or failure of a remote company rests on the people.
Does your company feel like a safe place to try new things? Or is it the sort of place where colleagues swoop in to judge you for errors? There’s always the danger that a remote business will acquire trolls. The same conditions that allow trolls to flourish on social media–anonymity, a lack of empathy, and no oversight–can develop in a distributed company if we aren’t careful. Today’s post was going to be about how to build empathy for colleagues you don’t see every day. When I hit 1000 words and still had more to say, I decided to post it over on Medium. You can read ‘How to Build Empathy for Remote Colleagues–3 Techniques to ‘See People as Fully-Realized Human Beings’ using this friend link.
We live in difficult times, and when we feel anxious, it’s hard to remember that other people are also afraid, stressed, and generally not their best selves during a pandemic. Build empathy now for the people at the other end of those emails and instant messages. Doing so will lower the chances that you’ll ruin a relationship–or your career–when you’re too anxious to think straight.
I have a lot to say on this topic. If I get a few hours of quiet any time soon, I’ll figure out if what I have to say fits in a series of articles, a short ebook, or something longer. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
Last week I have the privilege of speaking to the Puget Sound Chapter of the Association for Talent Development. These folks are communications professionals, which meant we could take a deep dive into inter-colleague communication. I may be the presenter during these keynotes but I always feel like I learn something new from each engagement.
This time, one of the participants pointed out that we shouldn’t forget to provide equal resources to people going back into the office if we don’t want them to resent their remote colleagues. This is such a great point, I needed to share it with you. Equal resources can mean a lot of different things–schedule flexibility is the first thing that pops into my mind. The world of work has been turned upside down due to this pandemic. Let’s use this as an opportunity to ask what else needs to be changed.
Things I’ve Published
The ‘How to Build Empathy’ article is the only remote-related thing out there right now. The rest of my publications are all comedy. I wrote ‘Are You Getting Laid off or Divorced‘ back in September, after a round of layoffs at my company. ‘2020 or Country & Western Song‘ came to me when I thought of that old joke, what do you get when you play a country song backwards? You get your house back, your wife back, and your dog back. ‘MLMs and Mompreneurs: A Half Baked Recipe‘ popped into my mind when I thought about companies that prey upon women who want to raise their children AND be financially stable.
I partnered with a super talented illustrator/cartoonist to create this single panel cartoon we’re calling Retirement Fund. Which is also a good way to say that if you are a cartoonist, the comedy magazine Greener Pastures (where I am an editor) is accepting illustrations for our Saturday morning cartoons section. Woo!
And finally, ‘Paul Simon Finds 50 Ways to Leave Online School‘ has been playing in my head as an online school parody for almost the entire pandemic. I had to write it out so the parody would leave me alone already. I’m very proud of the fact that you can actually sing my lyrics to Paul Simon’s original song. My husband thinks I should actually sing this in real life, after learning the chords on my guitar. I’m not sure anyone needs that. The point was to get the song OUT of my head, not weld it into place.
Goings On in the Douglas Household
On Saturday we attended a Zoom funeral for a relative. This was 2020 loss number three for our family, but it was the first one that my kids really felt. A wise friend once told me that however you feel after a death is the right way to feel. It was my privilege to pass that wisdom on. Another friend told me about a place in Japan where someone has an old style phone attached to a telephone pole. It’s impossible to make an actual phone call because the phone isn’t wired into any system. People go there to use the phone to say goodbye to relatives that have died. We don’t have that phone here in Canada, so my daughter wrote a poem instead. It helped.
As is true in most things, these weeks haven’t been all sadness. The temperature dropped enough for the leaves to change colours, and Vancouver is bathed in glorious light. This year I took Fall celebrations a little further by making my own apple cider. I’m a little embarrassed that it took so long to figure out how easy it is–just boil apples in water, add seasonings and sugar, and Bob’s your Uncle. And there’s nothing better than making a hot toddy on a cold night, out of cider you made yourself. Yesterday I sipped a hot toddy while knitting a sweater and I felt like I won Fall.
I hope you’re savouring your own small joys. I’ll see you next time.