by Patricia Roberts, speaker at the 2021 Spring Women’s Summit..

There are definitely benefits and challenges to working from home in a virtual environment.

If you haven’t seen the video recording of an attorney showing up at an online hearing with a cat filter over his face, it’s a must-see.

The cat-faced attorney maintains his composure and commitment to his client. Meanwhile, his assistant struggles behind the scenes to remove the cat filter.

The attorney continues with a diligent and sincere tone despite the cat filter that conceals his face. He informs the judge, “I’m prepared to go forward with it,” and then remarks candidly, “I’m here live, I’m not a cat.”

More Than a Good Laugh

In addition to providing viewers with a really good laugh, the touching video provides a reminder. There are benefits and challenges of professional interactions over video conferencing platforms.

Work and Home Lives Intersecting in Full View

Working from home puts our personal lives and our command of technology on full (or at least partial) display during live video conference meetings. We’ve had to lighten up a bit, abandon our desire for perfection and control, and get comfortable with revealing more of ourselves than we previously have. Most of all, we’ve had to embrace the unforeseen.

Not a Zoom meeting seems to go by without a life interruption. A barking dog, a cat hopping on a desk, a co-habitant or family member of various ages wandering into view, a priceless expression on a meeting participant’s face, a delivery or home repair person showing up at a less than ideal time. Unmuted microphones pick up any number of unexpected sounds and conversations, including in my case — my neighbor in the apartment directly above singing opera.

Benefits to Working from Home

So, what have we gained from relaxing standards a bit, taking a peek into each other’s lives outside of work, and being truly seen?

1. Connection

With the days of separating our professional and private lives largely behind us, we’ve become more closely connected through learning a bit more about each other’s personal lives.

2. Empathy

Since our personal responsibilities and living arrangements are no longer kept neatly out of sight, we have an opportunity to tune into and appreciate the needs and circumstances of others outside of the workplace.

As we become more aware of what is of personal importance to those with whom we work, we are better able to see issues from their perspective, and our empathy increases.

3. Authenticity

By seeing and being seen in a less filtered way, we are learning to embrace vulnerability and reveal a more authentic version of ourselves. In doing so, we inspire others to reveal more about themselves as well and in the process, colleagues, including senior members of the team, become more humanized.

4. Comradery

We learn to embrace the unexpected and work through glitches and unanticipated occurrences of all types. We demonstrate we are all in it together and that the show must go on.

As a result, we root for the presenter whose screen is frozen. We help our colleague who doesn’t realize their microphone is on mute. We support those who attempt to remain composed while a dog is barking or the doorbell is ringing.

5. Acceptance

Now that carefully-orchestrated workplace meetings and in-person interactions are a thing of the past, distractions have become more normalized and we have grown to accept the unexpected.

Becoming more closely acquainted with each other through vulnerable circumstances presents opportunities for growth as well as a deepened sense of belonging and collaboration.

As Brene’ Brown so wisely reminds us, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

About the Author

Patricia Roberts is an author and COO at GiftofCollege.com, where innovations are created for individuals to invite friends, family, and employers to help save for college and pay down student loan debt.

Her first book, Route 529, was inspired by going after her dreams. She resides in Brooklyn, NY, and is the mother of a college senior named Ben, who will graduate debt-free this year!

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Betty Lochner is a human resources consultant, business coach, and expert in workplace communications. She is the author of two books on communication, and a newly published journal, Intentional Gratitude. She is the host of Confident Communication: A Women’s Summit.