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(woman in an empty boardroom and deserted workplace, to a large video screen of faces) It’s great to be back in the office so we can all meet face to face!

Better Homes & Offices

Better Homes & Offices published on

A little over a year ago, we made a massive, abrupt migration from offices to makeshift home workplaces. As weeks melted into months, fantasies of a quick return to our beloved cubicle farms gave way to the grim reality of remote work. Zero-minute commutes. Meetings conducted in dress shirts and PJ bottoms. A dreary procession of home-cooked meals punctuated by (shudder) more time with our loved ones.

I was one of the lucky ones. Not only was I already accustomed to working away from an office (thank you, freelance lifestyle!), but I was able to draw on the advice and insight of my wife, Alexandra Samuel. She’s been thinking and writing about work and technology for quite a while — and last summer, she began work on a book with co-author and productivity expert Robert Pozen.

Remote, Inc. hits virtual and physical bookshelves in just a few weeks. The subtitle says it all: How to thrive at work wherever you are. It’s a practical, hands-on guide for employees and managers alike, and not just for COVID times. Remote, Inc. will help you navigate the fusion of remote and on-site work that’ll emerge as the new post-pandemic normal.

I got to read drafts of the manuscript. That meant I also got to put many of the book’s strategies and tactics to work over the past year, as the interim director of communications with the BC Federation of Labour. It’s the first job I’ve ever worked entirely from home. And it’s been tremendously rewarding: partly because of those strategies, but also because they’re a terrific group of folks.

My time with the Fed comes to an end in just a few days as I return to my leadership communications practice. I’m looking forward to picking up my work with my clients again. And between now and April 27, when Remote, Inc. officially launches, I’ll be posting more cartoons inspired by Alex and Bob’s ideas about remote work and the hybrid workplace.

(one man to another worried man, in bed) Hey, it happens, and it's nothing to worry about. But I don't think you can blame it on Zoom fatigue.

Video killed the…

Video killed the… published on

For those of us for whom working from home was already our daily reality, there’s a certain “Welcome to the party, pal” quality to hearing complaints about Zoom fatigue. Not to be all hipster about it, but we were finding video meetings exhausting before it was popular.

Part of the problem may be that we nearly always only see each others’ heads and shoulders, and we’ve become used to communicating with each other using our whole bodies. The way we hold ourselves, the gestures we make, that shift of weight from one foot to another: These all communicate volumes, and we’ve shut ourselves off from that.

In a widely-read Medium piece, Hanna Thomas Uose argues that the effect is actually “low-key traumatic”. Without those body-based signals we’ve learned to unconsciously rely on when we talk with someone, we’re never quite at ease, and never really feel safe. The fight-or-flight mechanism is constantly on deck, squirt pistol of adrenaline in hand, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

I found out about her article when I was doing research for an episode of my own podcast about why and when it may make sense to back away a little from the camera, especially if you’re not just a meeting participant but a presenter. Creative use of that space could lend a lot of expressiveness to your delivery — although, as I warn, “The bad news? You’re gonna need to start wearing pants again.”

By the way, everyone talks about Zoom fatigue, but nobody talks about Slack or Microsoft Teams fatigue. Look, I love me a good threaded conversation, and I think Slack is absolutely brilliant in its improvement over email. But between the proliferation of threads, channels, chats and more, I sometimes feel like I’ve traded one inbox for a dozen or more.

(woman lying on sofa with laptop, talking on phone) Hey, dad... remember when I’d be playing video games, and you’d tell me that hanging out on the sofa all day staring at a screen is no preparation for the real world?

Preparing for this our whole lives

Preparing for this our whole lives published on

There’s a lot about working from home (for those of us who are doing it) that still isn’t working well: the Zoom fatigue, the tsunami of ergonomic injuries waiting to be diagnosed, the difficulty finding a quiet place to do focused work, the erasing of whatever tenuous work/home boundaries we’ve managed to draw, the potential for employer surveillance and abuse, and a lot more.

But let’s remember that a lot of offices and workplaces weren’t great to work in, either. Some people thrived on face-to-face meetings and collaboration, but a lot of others found that environment stressful and distracting. (“So why didn’t they raise that in our all-hands meetings?” I hear someone ask.)

We’re going to keep adapting. We’ll solve some working-from-home problems and discover new ones. We’ll resolve them with varying mixes of collaboration, negotiation, innovation and conflict. Work-from-home today probably looks a lot different from what work-from-home will mean next year.

I have no idea when I’ll next set foot in an office. I’m in no great hurry.

Coffee shops — that’s a different story. I’m champing at the bit to plunk down with my laptop somewhere, scan the baseboards for an outlet and ask a barista for a WiFi password.

How about you?

Merit badges: Learned Zoom, Showered Today, Fed Myself, Dressed by 3:00 PM, Spoke to Another Adult, Did Some Work Instead of Laundry, Over 250 Steps This Week More or Less

Working-from-home merit badges

Working-from-home merit badges published on

Working from home is the new reality for a lot of people.

They’re just now learning the bliss of remote work: The joys of sharing a sometimes-tight workspace with kids. The surprisingly appealing siren call of doing the dishes when you should be entering data. And how the deft skill of dressing from the waist up from your webcam can be undone instantly when you spill coffee in your lap and stand up suddenly.

But there are also people who can’t work from home. Some have the tough choice of either coming in to work and risking exposure, staying home without pay or losing their jobs completely. And some are doing essential work we all count on. I don’t have a merit badge for them — just respect and solidarity.

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