I have some thoughts about masks. Don’t worry—they’re not what you’re thinking.
I’m worried about the masks we put on when we get dressed in the morning. The ones we use to present ourselves correctly, to say the just-right thing, and in front of others.
Good riddance to those masks and the expectations that formed the need for them. While the pandemic encouraged us to put our safety masks on, one of its most positive lasting effects is that it encouraged us to take our figurative masks off, bringing our fullest, most complete selves to work.
Breaking character in a hybrid world
We’ve all been there. Whether we accidentally took a video call from the comfort of our bed or muted ourselves while trying to talk, we’ve experienced the occasional video call snafu. These are normal, human ones.
Pre-covid, every interaction felt pre-planned and pre-packaged, as if we were producing our television show for a hot new streaming service known as Microsoft Teams. That approach was draining — and damaging. We were limiting ourselves, only sharing a world in which there is no life outside of work. We had built walls around ourselves, and it was time for them to come down. Shining a light on the other side of our lives — on the other side of our personhood — has helped us integrate our lives into our work in a much healthier way than before.
3 ways to bring our whole selves to work
1) Live your life out loud
Following an 8-year hiatus to raise my three daughters, I discovered that making such a decision was not a career-limiting choice. More so, I learned it was okay to go after what I wanted and what made sense for my family. This can be a challenging idea for women in the workplace. I often needed to hide my life and family responsibilities during the workday. But these recent changes have, I believe, leveled the playing field for women in this respect.
2) Focus energy on what matters
The events of the past few years make us more empathetic and understanding of the challenges those around us are experiencing. Our lives often blend together amidst hybrid and remote work, but balance is not putting on a grand show during a video call. Focus instead on the content of your interactions to drive progress and results.
3) Boost the humanity
Our relationships are authentic and built upon our whole selves. As a leader, I am vulnerable and open with my team. My family—and my pets—have sauntered in unexpectedly during team calls at times. Instead of shushing them and scrambling to go off camera or on mute, I am open to needing a minute to address whatever they need. I also walk or go outside while on calls when the topic allows me flexibility.
More so, it’s far more common now that I ask my team how they’re feeling—Are you okay? or Do you need anything?—than it was before the pandemic. Things like converting a sale or boosting ROI may be important to the business, but they’re not as important as the actual humans we work with. Because they are what truly drive results.
What comes next
This is only the beginning of our workplace revolution. The people, teams, and companies that win will embrace real, human stories. It will be those that effectively display what it looks like to exist in community, both with each other and with the world.
That is why the work we do matters, not because of the things we sell, the money we make, or the personal masks we wear. It matters because it allows us to connect and share our lives. It matters because it gives us purpose.