The Office of Tomorrow?

The open-office concept with densely-clustered cubicles was pretty common before the pandemic hit, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see a much different configuration if/when we return to the office. What that’ll actually look like is anyone’s guess, but it could look kind of like what’s pictured here:

This was a concept was created, pre-pandemic, resulting from the collaboration between Susan Cain, author of Quiet, and Steelcase, a workplace design firm. The goal was to create a workspace where introverts could thrive. The really interesting thing is that, if you take a close look, it could potentially address important health and safety issues that organizations will have to put in place. Notice the enclosed workspace, the 1-person lounge area with a glass partition separating socially-distanced desks (facing away from each other). Incidentally, all that natural light coming through is pretty nice bonus. I like working from home, but I have to say coming back to an office that resembles this might possibly tempt me. Might.

My “Phase 1”

In the past few weeks, local businesses and parks and other public spaces have been in various phases of reopening. On the surface, it’s encouraging because I think most people want to get back to some sense of normalcy, including me. On the other hand, some of the data, especially personal observation, don’t seem to support reopening just yet. We’re now seeing a spike in cases. Granted, part of this is probably due to the recent widespread protests, but another factor is what I perceive as the “I just don’t give a crap anymore – I want my life back” attitude, which I’ve seen not only online and on TV, but also in-person. I witnessed it just today in fact. In an ideal world, everyone would have at least a baseline of common sense and consideration for others, but sadly this isn’t reality. (Face masks are about protecting others, not ourselves).

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Timmy is helping me assess Phase 1. Data gathering is very important!

Because of this, my “Phase 1” will be according to my own schedule and comfort level with the situation, not a declaration made by DC government, nor anyone else. DC is apparently moving to “Phase 2” this week, but I’m not there yet.  And from what I’ve heard, it’s a very mixed bag – some local businesses are doing a great job in enforcing the guidelines and protocols, and others not so much. Human behavior, by the way, is also a mixed bag: The other day, I observed a woman (with two small children) with no mask and completely disregarding any sense of social distancing. On the flip side, just a few minutes prior to that, I saw a grandmother, with a mask on, visiting her grandchildren – she stood outside while the kids were inside the home. When I brought the car in today for servicing, there’s inconsistency from one minute to the next when it comes to wearing face masks, even though the car dealership requires it. Without enforcement, requirements are merely suggestions.

I feel like I’ve slowly but surely become more comfortable and less anxious over the past few months, despite witnessing  behavior that could be construed as indifferent, complacent, oblivious, inconsiderate, or some combination of all of these. I will say, however, that  crisis fatigue is a thing, and most likely also a factor with some people. I totally get it, and I definitely have a touch of it myself. (Doing some meditation is a big help by the way).

This pandemic can be a test in patience, but being patient, smart, methodical, not in denial, and considerate are going to be key. And this bears repeating: wearing a mask is about protecting our neighbors, not ourselves. With that said, it comes down to an individual’s comfort level. I’m going at my own pace, and I’ll get to Phase 1 (and Phase 2 & 3) when I get there.  And apparently, some local business owners feel the same way.

And finally, some satire on the subject, a reflection of where we are in the US right now.

Building relationships and social distancing: LinkedIn to the rescue

As introverts, I think most of us have always leaned on LinkedIn as our go-to networking approach, but now that we’re in the midst of social distancing and self-quarantining, and relying even more on getting things done remotely, it’s more important then ever to be active on LinkedIn. Personally speaking, (and I would guess for many other introverts), this is no real shock to the system as LinkedIn was, and is my primary source for building professional relationships.

Having a profile on LinkedIn is a great start. But it’s just that – a start. Now what? The first step of course is to make sure your profile is complete and current, including a photo (usually professional dress). Also, don’t overlook or underestimate the “About” section: this is a great opportunity to highlight in a concise way relevant work experience, education, skills and accomplishments – in other words, how you can contribute to the success of an employer or solve problems for a client in your target industry. Keep in mind that employers often use your profile as a basis for hiring decisions.

OK, moving on. What’s next, now that you have an awesome profile? Ask for a few recommendations from former supervisors and co-workers, as well as past and present professors, for example – really anyone who can attest to your skills, qualifications, work style, etc. is a potential recommendation for you. But remember we’re still networking here, so it’s important to be willing to reciprocate and offer to write a recommendation for those same individuals when appropriate.SocialDistance

You’re making progress: got your profile up, with a couple recommendations. What now? Get active. Join some of the groups related to your target industry, or perhaps your school’s alumni group. for starters. And now that you’ve joined, what’s the next step? See who the group members are with whom you can potentially connect. Participate in the discussion forums by posting relevant articles and commenting on other members’ posts. This is a great way to increase your overall visibility on LinkedIn.

What else? LinkedIn can be a valuable tool when it comes to informational interviews. How does this work? Do a search on an organization you’re interested in, and LinkedIn will show you which of your connections have some sort of association with that organization. Requesting informational interviews from 1st degree connections is usually straightforward, but with 2nd degree connections, try to get an introduction from one of your mutual contacts if possible. As many of us are now seeing in the world of social distancing and mandated work-from-home, online meetings can be just as productive and fruitful as in-person ones, and this is true for informational interviews too.

So this is just a small taste of what you can do with LinkedIn, but hopefully this will get you moving in the right direction if you’ve been wondering about some positive next steps to take with your networking strategy. Final thought: LinkedIn is a very effective tool, but use it as just one of several approaches, especially when we return to “business as usual”. For now, however, I would recommend making it your primary source.