On social distancing

If you aren’t following the Bredemarket page on LinkedIn, you may not have seen my share of a LinkedIn article from my former coworker Mike Rathwell.

Rathwell, like many of us in California, has been working from home for some time; at the time Rathwell wrote his article, he had been working from home for 7 months and 11 days. I haven’t kept count myself, but I’ve been working from home for a similar amount of time – first as an IDEMIA employee, and then on my own.

While my experience hasn’t been the same as Rathwell’s, it’s interesting to note the progression that he described as he and his coworkers adjusted to the WFH environment. At first, things were novel and exciting – using online channels to talk about pets, joke about what day it was, and joke about work attire. This novel way of interacting, and making sure that everyone interacted with each other, had an interesting effect.

We were not just a company’s employees; we were a community.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/covid-world-7-months-mike-rathwell/

But as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, the novelty wore off. People concentrated on work and ignored the virtual “water coolers” that were set up in Slack.

Even those who had been working from home for years were adversely affected, because their regular outside activities were constrained by the pandemic.

The title of this post is taken from a paragraph toward the end of Rathwell’s article. Here is an excerpt.

When all this started, many took umbrage at the term “social distancing”. “No!” we cried. “We are physically distancing and the wonders of the modern age are keeping us socially together!”. Unfortunately, however, many of the “outlier” groups…have already seen true “social” distancing in action and are “outside”.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/covid-world-7-months-mike-rathwell/

My personal experience has been a little different. For the first three months of working from home, I was interacting with my IDEMIA colleagues via Microsoft Teams, email, and other avenues. My boss was based in Massachusetts, so I was used to interacting with him remotely anyway.

Then came “free agency,” and the regular interactions with my work “community” were lost.

Actually, not entirely. I’ve still been interacting with my former coworkers, both those who became “free agents” at the same time that I did, and those who remained. In fact, I’ve contacted my former boss (who became a “free agent” at the same time that I did) a few times over the last several weeks, and now I don’t have to prepare my weekly report before our meetings!

I’ve obviously been interacting with my Bredemarket customers on various levels, both business and personal. Some of these customers happen to be former coworkers from either IDEMIA or from its corporate predecessors, so I’ve had some catching up to do. One Printrak coworker moved to Northern California a decade ago, and I didn’t even know it.

I’m also interacting with various freelancing groups, including one managed by Jay Clouse, and an Orange County group associated with the Freelancers Union. Both of these groups have both text-based “boards” (I date myself with that word) and online interactive webinars.

It’s not the true equivalent of an in-person water cooler (or Flavia machine), but it helps.

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