Lately, I’ve been curious about how people find themselves at work. It seems harder to let outside influences go as we jump into our days in a world that sometimes seems anything but normal. Many of us try to “be professional” as we sit at dining room tables that have become our home offices, attending Zoom calls while attempting to mute at the same moments our toddler screams and our dogs bark at the Amazon guy. The usual distractions used to be the smell of someone heating up last night’s fish in the community microwave or the coworker’s personal conversations over the cube wall, but now our distractions are intensely personal and not as easy to drown out.

As we work from home, making a clear distinction between our home and work lives is becoming harder. So the question becomes, “Do we try harder to force the separation or just let our coworkers and clients see a little more about who we are outside the office?” Although uncomfortable, my vote is for the latter. I also don’t think that we have to swing from one extreme to another, based on who we’re interacting with that day we can work within a spectrum of authenticity that is based on trust. 

Low Trust: Higher Walls

If we’re dealing with a client or coworker that we may be lower on the trust scale, we may choose to build some barriers between our home life and the life we project on our Zoom meetings. Some ways that we can create some “space” starts with how we’ve configured our digital meeting space. For example, if you’re working in your bedroom, you may want to consider using the Zoom background feature. This can give you a little more privacy while you’re doing video-conferencing. Also, you may want to invest in a noise-canceling headset.  A headset is a great way to filter external noises at your house, but it’s also a great way to prevent your little ones from overhearing heated business discussions.

Medium Trust: Test the Waters

Perhaps you’ve been working with your coworkers for a few years and you’re willing to test the waters maybe it might be time to let them in a little to your home life. The Covid pandemic has introduced a completely new element to our working lives and it’s natural to feel a little uncomfortable in this new environment. Although Dorie Clark’s article What to Do When You Don’t Feel Comfortable Being Yourself at Work was originally written for those that don’t feel comfortable in their current work environments, I think it can offer some great suggestions for those that are uncomfortable about working from home. Broadcasting our home lives can display some of our deepest vulnerabilities however, exposing these vulnerabilities can also open us up to deeper relationships. The key with those you’re starting to build relationships with is to start small and work from there.

High Trust: It’s Still Not a Face-to-Face Conversation

If you’re on a work call with a colleague or client you’ve been working with for years, still beware of the technology you’re using to communicate. If you are using a technology that is sponsored by your company, it could be automatically recorded. And if it is recorded, are you sure you want that conversation played back to you someday? Based on the relationship (colleague or client) you may choose to introduce your family members while on conference calls (especially if you’re interrupted), but you still want to make sure that each layer you reveal of your personal life is being matched by your colleague or client. 

Working from home presents an interesting social experiment. After years of working with people face-to-face, seeing how they live and interact with their families presents some challenges. Continuing to assess how we show up for work and the version of ourselves we display will continue to evolve. There are no easy answers but continuing to examine who we trust with which information will continue to be a factor in how we now reveal ourselves to those we live and work with.

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What Would Ted Lasso Say?

Every Friday, my husband and I look forward to getting our two-year-old son into bed so that we can watch Ted Lasso. I didn’t think I would be into this show, but after a few of our friends recommended it, we decided to give it a try. My husband is an avid Manchester United fan and is also pretty familiar with the Premier League, so it’s always interesting to have a discussion with him each week about how the episode reminds him of real players and real leadership situations. I have found myself really enjoying the additional context to Ted Lasso, but I’ve also found myself really enjoying Ted’s leadership style and a few of Ted’s more quotable moments. 

1. “Be a Goldfish.” Ted uses this line when he’s talking to one of his players after he makes a mistake. The reason he gives for the Goldfish being so happy is he has the shortest memory. We all mistakes and don’t we all wish we didn’t. I am definitely one of those people that can overanalyze a bit much sometimes when it comes to my decisions and actions, so keeping this phrase in mind makes me chuckle to myself just a bit when I start getting too wrapped up in the past. This humorous motto is a great reminder not to take our mistakes too seriously and to just let them go.

2. “It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.” In season one, it’s amazing how much vitriol is slung at Ted from the stands, from the streets, from his team, and secretly from his manager. Despite the insults and negative attitudes, Ted pushes on while optimistically pursuing his dream of making the players versions of themselves. Although he’s a fictional character, I can’t help but imagine what it might be like to be a coach of a sports team and constantly having your decisions second-guessed and criticized in a very public way. Although it seems painful, Ted is never deterred by the public’s review of his performance, he remains focused on his purpose with the team: making them “the best versions of themselves.” 

3. It’s okay if people underestimate you. One of my favorite moments in season one is when the audience finds out that Ted has a hidden talent when it comes to darts. He uses this time to shine to the benefit of his boss. From time to time, I think all of us need to have our egos stroked, but I find it interesting that Ted only uses his talent to shine when it is for the purpose of serving another.

I know I can fall into the trap of taking myself too seriously sometimes and I’m glad that I have a weekly reminder from Ted Lasso that as I pursue some of my biggest goals, I don’t have to lose sight of having a little fun along the way. If you haven’t checked out Ted Lasso, I hope you might watch a few episodes and see if you can glean a few great insights as to how to have a little more fun as you play the game of life. I know I have.