This is the twenty-ninth in a series of short essays I wrote as part of the Ship 30 for 30 program. You can read all thirty essays here.
As we all know, the pandemic has significantly changed many people’s working arrangements, with millions of people working from home for the last year.
There’s been endless discussion about the implications of this shift to home working. A common argument is that not being in a shared workspace with colleagues has created a sense of isolation and lost connection. But my experience doesn’t reflect this. I have been working from home for over a year now and have never felt more connected to my professional contacts.
In the work environment, we tend to play a role rather than be 100% our true selves. This makes it easy to reduce our colleagues to the people playing those roles, rather than seeing them in all their glory.
But, through Zoom meetings, it has been possible to get more of a glimpse into people’s personal lives. Not voyeuristically, but in an enlightening way. People are closer to their natural selves in their personal environment, so connecting with co-workers in their homes has given me a better sense of who they are.
I have found out colleagues have pets they have never mentioned and been able to see how they interact with them. I have seen how people decorate their living spaces, how they dress when office attire isn’t required, how they interact with their spouses, what kind of cups they have. Through these glimpses, I feel more connected to many people than I did when I saw them at the office every day.
Far from creating a sense of dislocation, remote working has weirdly enabled an unexpected form of intimacy between people. Instead of feeling unnatural, breaking the fourth wall of people’s homes has brought me closer to them and feels more natural than being in the workplace ever did.