In a line, in a question – this is the sentiment right now. And it came to me on a random playlist rotation.
We firmly believe it does not equate to a genuine belief that our team won’t be reunited (or personally that I’ll never get back to Australia), more a reflection on how the face of work might look.
Will the face be a beaming smile, or one met with apprehension, or one met at social distance with a half-smile behind a mask?
How will the balance be struck between re-injecting energy, overcoming fear and hesitation and continuing wellness at work?
This one little question – am I ever going to see your face again – actually covers a lot of ground.
But, before we forge a little further, we’ll let you finish humming the tune of the 1977 Angels hit of the same name, and even turn a blind eye (or ear) to you splicing in what I see as an oh-so-Australian response (No way, get….).
Ok, now that’s behind us, let’s assess whether or not we will ever see each other’s faces again – and the emotion and behaviour that ensues.
Am I ever going to see your face again?
Here in the USA it speaks to the need, in fact the order, of wearing masks in public spaces (I’m literally only seeing half of your face, again). And along with clear guidelines on being 6-feet apart, we are seeing quirky avoidance behaviour driven by uncertainty, apprehension and fear.
I get it.
Just yesterday, a neighbour from my apartment block adorned in her mask (and me in mine) were to meet ever so fleetingly as the elevator doors opened, us both hoping to make it to street level. With marked spaces for two passengers, upon my attempted entry to the elevator, my neighbour awkwardly went to leave (and get out on my random floor). She didn’t want to chit-chat, and she politely told me the stairs would be good exercise. I could see her anxiety growing. No time to rationalise. And she was the only one in the elevator.
Maybe it was simply an awkward interaction, or maybe we’ve just slightly forgotten how to interact with other people when we see them face to face. What are we supposed to do? What are we supposed to say? With so many things taken away from or decided for us, have we lost a bit of our judgement?
All I could do was imagine this elevator interaction back at work. Usually, the best conversation you get in an elevator is the obligatory ‘How are you?’ followed by the overwhelmingly most popular reply ‘I’m good, although we’re really busy right now’ as though any other answer – with actual content or emotion, would render you unemployed.
Am I ever going to see your face again?
It speaks to office re-openings, and how it might look. All together at once, staggered, bursts of interaction, more remote working? It speaks on how restrictions on travel for client activity might shift (will we be able to visit for a project, only to be quarantined on our return to our home state?).
For a while we’ve been talking about re-onboarding, and in Australia and in the USA we are actually seeing some commonality of approach – that is, the decisions to open up the economy, or parts of it, are being guided by the States (by Premiers or Governors). And, of course, this means the pace of ‘easing’ measures are uneven.
So, that got me to the new jingle…
How am I ever going to see your face again?
Last week, we had an amazing team conversation and Rhonda wrote another brilliant article – this time on the need to ‘co-curate’ our return to ‘normality’. While we are still unsure what ‘normality’ or ‘the new normal’ will mean or when, we are confident it must bridge the gap between the good, the bad, the lessons, the reflections on ourselves and our teams.
Let’s keep what works from this whole experience, lose what we’ve learnt was lousy before, and get on the front foot to dictate the new normal.
This week, as I re-read that article, it’s pertinent as ever.
Ironically, I’ve been thinking about co-curating on my morning walk most days past the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Instead of running up the ‘Rocky’ steps, or striking a pose with his bronze figure, I instead think about the concept of curation – and particularly the question of ‘how am I ever going to see your face again?”
And, having been inside that extraordinary building, I think about 3 things that we could learn from art that could be applied to ‘co-curate’ seeing your face again.
Art curation, and the production of art, requires significant energy. For some, that energy comes from go-to-woe, idea to execution. For many others, there will be bursts of energy, moments of inspiration, of passion. Personally, I’ve found my best energy (despite the productivity training) does not come from bundling like tasks together, it comes from finding clusters of time where my energy is balanced – a block where there’s a human interaction, thinking time, writing or design time, and just a hint of time to let some thoughts run off the page…
Outlets for Hesitation and Fear
This comes from a place of empathy and care, much like that for my elevator (almost) friend. Some of the greatest art comes from traversing the rawest of emotions, toughest personal or societal situations. And as art can be an outlet for hesitation and fear, can that be channelled to think in novel ways about work?
Through ‘reopening’ there will be light and shade, moments of unwanted empty space, moments where some space to focus is needed, and others where the space needs to be filled with others to progress ideas and to be connected. And this will vary greatly. Some artists fill a big space every time, others prefer intricacy and detail, others have works that span space.
So, with that, and after another day of virtual interactions, I’ll crank ‘am I ever going to see your face again’ and keep pondering just how that’s going to happen.