I’ve been reading prognostications about the return to normalcy, post-pandemic, practically since the first week of the pandemic. Plenty of PPE, barriers, directional signage, and not a little bit of distrust, paranoia and liability. Most of these musings have missed the more important aspects of life in the office after 2021: the behaviors that have been forged by our camera-connected virtual experiences. Here are a few thoughts on the subject:
- I’m not going to hug you because if I hug you I’ll have to hug everybody. Plus, I don’t really want to hug you. Too soon.
- Pants are optional but strongly encouraged. Shoes will be required for those whose feet didn’t go feral during the pandemic.
- In meetings, it’ll be okay to stare at a colleague’s face for longer than would be appropriate pre-pandemic. But no pinning; that will be cause for termination.
- Day drinking isn’t going away. People will continue to micro-dose chardonnay and vodka, thanks to a number of new “vitamin” waters (patent pending).
- Waving will continue to be big. And by big, I don’t mean just popular; waving will be ubiquitous and exaggerated. Meetings will open with simple finger flourishes as colleagues enter the room. They’ll close with forearms and hands sweeping through the air like an over-eager mime. No one will speak after they’ve waved goodbye. They will just exit the room, avoiding eye contact.
- Speaking of hands, the raised-hand icon will be replaced by the old-fashioned raised hand. Others will ignore the signal and continue to speak until a) the hand is lowered or b) someone takes pity and says so-and-so has their hand raised. The hand raiser will likely not learn from this experience.
- When someone says, “put it in the chat,” someone else should say something like “the chat is here, it’s right here around this table, it’s what we all were doing before you said to put something in it. And now there’s no chat. That’s on you!” That someone will probably be me.
- “You’re on mute” will be replaced with “go on mute” when colleagues babble, ramble or say stupid things. (This should have been standard practice for a long time.)
- We will continue to celebrate the bio-breaks we enjoyed right before this meeting and/or the ones we’re planning if this meeting end a few minutes early. Bonus: now others can vouch for our experience.
- Warning to those who choose to work from home: we will mute the room’s mike often, continue the conversation, and then unmute, chuckling, “We forgot you were there!”
- I will never forget that weird abstract (and kind of BDSM) painting you had over your left shoulder for the past year. Not judging, but I think you’re pretty twisted.
- As before the pandemic, I still don’t want to see or hear your kids. But please bring your dogs, I want to see all the dogs.
- People have smells. Get used to it.
Of course, there’s always the chance we won’t return to the office. Or, at least, I won’t, after my bosses and colleagues read this.