Jim Ebert is a Project Manager and Senior Scrum Master at ThreeWill. He has over 30 years of experience as a business and technology leader with demonstrated success in managing and delivering mission-critical projects and initiatives.
I am fortunate to work for an organization that is set up to where we can work remotely if necessary. I work for a company in the IT, professional services firm industry. So when COVID-19 hit, transitioning to working from home was fairly smooth. What I find interesting is that it’s bringing everyone ‘closer’ together. This feeling of closeness has seemed to extend even to our relationships with our clients.
‘Seeing’ a Difference
I have worked with many people who have vowed NEVER to be seen over a video cam in a virtual meeting. They would even put tape over their computer webcams. But what I have noticed over time is that those who were uncomfortable showing themselves on camera eventually began to appear “in person”. And with that, I feel like that is when our meetings became the most productive. You could actually ‘see’ a person again! And having that “visual” did make a difference versus just hearing their voice over the phone/Internet. It became personal again.
A Refreshing Atmosphere
But I also noticed that when everyone started showing up for these meetings, the atmosphere became generally more relaxed. This was even more so than for traditional in-person meetings. These virtual meetings quickly became more than just “business”. You could see people in their “home” setting and glean a little bit more about them.
Several people, for example, took interest in the schematics of the two ship pictures that I have on my office wall. One is of Christopher Colombo and the other is of the Andrea Doria. Both were given to a woman as she boarded the ships in early 1954 when she was traveling to and from Rome to see her son ordained. And the fun began when pre-set backgrounds became available. These choices quickly became the ice breaker/meeting kick-off discussions that got people into a more fun/engaged mood.
In fact, in one meeting where the team learned that a member had been recognized as the associate of the month, the entire project team changed their backgrounds to include balloons! That’s one way to feel ‘closer’ together. And let’s not forget the pets that have made cameos. Who does not love a dog showing up on camera or a cat’s tail flashing by someone’s video? Pets always have good stories to share with meeting attendees. It reminds me of this funny video below when Microsoft introduced a background blur for MS Teams.
COVID-19 has turned pretty much everything upside down. And nothing can take away the impact it has had on our lives. But there are good things too as a result. With all of us going through this, we have been able to adapt. From a business perspective, I think that meetings are allowing all of us to get to know a different side of our coworkers and clients. And that’s a good thing in my book.