In 2017, a BBC News interview with Professor Robert Kelly went viral when Kelly’s young children walked into the livestream.First was a toddler dancing into the room, then a baby in a walker, and finally the frantic mom behind them. Millions of viewers found the snafu entertaining and endearing, garnering the original video nearly 40 million views on YouTube.
Few people could have predicted that just three years later, we would all be in the same boat.
In a time when interrupting children and pets are expected, remote work is redefining professionalism. We are all learning how to juggle conference calls with supervising children, caring for pets, and handling a myriad of household responsibilities. For many, keeping personal lives separate from work is no longer an option. As Professor Kelly experienced firsthand, sometimes your personal life will find a way through the door.
In addition to the interruption that children and pets can sometimes cause, the transition to work-from-home was abrupt for many employees. They didn’t have enough time to properly prepare. This means the average American doesn’t have a home office set up. We are logging onto work calls from dinner tables, messy living rooms, and spare bedrooms. Sometimes, the lighting is not perfect and there’s clutter in the background.
While several years ago not every colleague would have been tolerant, our current situation means most coworkers understand—many of them are struggling with the same challenges. In fact, many individuals have embraced the intersection between the professional and the personal. LinkedIn has become the place to post pictures of pets lounging on stacks of documents, videos of kids “helping” parents with work, or laugh about how many times the doorbell rang during a meeting. People are finding that these shared struggles easily allow for empathizing with others and building professional connections.
So, in an era where a few background barks or running kids are normal, what will define professionalism?
Professionalism in the era of remote work is defined not by one’s clothes or office jargon mastery, but by one’s attitude towards work. Here are some areas you can focus on instead of the traditional barometers of professionalism.
- Time Management. Workers will be more efficient and productive if they are able to manage their time and tackle work at times when interruptions are least likely.
- Communication. Employees who are able to communicate ideas effectively even without face-to-face time will stand out.
- Self-Accountability. People who remain focused and productive, even when their boss isn’t around, show great professionalism in the era of remote work.
- Timeliness. Working from home gives people much more flexibility to tackle chores at times when it works for them. However, individuals who frequently miss or delay meetings because they didn’t make it back in time from the grocery store might be seen as unprofessional.
- Openness to New Tools. Remote work means that companies have to try different collaboration tools, and finding the right fit will take some trial-and-error. Employees who are open to learning and experimenting with new tools will have the advantage.
- Empathy. Not every person was impacted equally by the shift to work-from-home. Approaching every situation with empathy and understanding will help keep collaboration and harmony within the team. For example, employees without kids should be careful not to be critical of parents who have less free time in the day.
Whether you are an employee trying to stand out while working remotely, a manager helping your newly remote team, or a manager guiding a new hire, focusing on these areas can help you maintain professionalism in a new era of working from home.