This was originally published on AllBusiness.
You keep hearing people talk, during these strange COVID-19 times, about the “new normal” or wanting to get back to “business as usual.”
I get that we crave any semblance of normalcy and that many of us long to return to the office so we can be around other human beings outside of our family members. But should how we work look the same as it once did in life after coronavirus?
I don’t think so.
There’s no denying that our world has been turned upside-down, and that includes our way of doing business. Now that most of us have been working from home for several months and we’ve become accustomed to it, I think there’s one thing that has become a strength for us during this time: working remotely has humanized doing business.
Doing Business with People, not Clients
Let me explain what I mean. Before quarantine (BQ, I guess), many of us dressed in our business casual best and made sure our haircuts or makeup were flawless before going to a business meeting with a client.
Now we’re hopping on Zoom calls wearing our workout clothes, kids screaming in the background, and cats tiptoeing in front of the camera.
We’re getting the same results we did before, but this is way more fun.
It’s like we’ve taken off our masks and admitted that in addition to being kick-ass at doing business, we’re also people. People who turn their bedrooms into offices with exercise bikes in the background—maybe with dirty laundry on the bed. People who let little slips of their personal lives show in the family photos and art you see in the video call.
I recently signed on a new content marketing client, a consulting firm. Now, these guys make a lot of money doing what they do, and I am fairly certain they look the part when flying across the country to meet with multinational corporations. And yet, on our calls, they’ve been . . . dudes. Cool dudes wearing their college shirts and ball caps. Dudes who make no qualms about how exhausted they are with babies and toddlers at home with them. Dudes that could be my brothers.
The previous barriers we would have had up between our personal and business lives has evaporated. We’re just . . . people. And we can relate to the messiness and stress of life and work.
We may not have felt this connection before coronavirus changed everything.
One of these guys, in fact, talks a lot about how his firm’s philosophy is to do business with people, not clients. You can’t ask a client how its day was, but you can ask a person. You can’t build a relationship with a client, not really, the way you can an individual. I appreciate this.
And now that the masks are off, we’re able to build those relationships even faster.
Let’s Keep It This Way
So what happens when the day comes when we (well, or you—I have always worked from home) can go back to the office? When we have to force our feet to remember what heels feel like and hope we don’t break our necks trying to look “professional”?
Do we have to go back to that way of doing business?
Or can we open up the door to allow for a little more casual, a bit more personality, to shine in the business world?
I think about how, when I graduated from college, my mother insisted that I wear pantyhose to job interviews. But I hated them and didn’t see the point in them. She was horrified when I told her at my first job, not only did I not wear pantyhose . . . I even wore open-toed shoes. The horror!
Men used to wear suits and ties to work each day. But over time, they shed the suit jackets and eventually the ties. Now it’s more commonplace to see them wearing jeans and a button-down in the office. Some offices are even more casual.
But it’s not just about what we wear to work. I’d like us to keep this relatability going as well. Right now, we’re commiserating about how this quarantine has affected our kids’ graduations, our friends’ weddings, or even our own travel plans. We’re bonding together against a common enemy. But even when this drama has passed, I’d like us to keep treating one another as people.
Let’s talk about where you got that cute top or how you were so excited to have three days off so you could spend it with your family. Let’s make jokes about a show we’ve both seen or ask for book recommendations.
At the end of the day, work’s gonna get done. But I think it’s the way we treat one another and what we choose to let each other see and know about ourselves that will help us build trust in that work environment in life after coronavirus.