I mean no disrespect to anyone who has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. My wife lost a work colleague, our close friends lost their pastor, and so many people have lived in fear for over a year, unsure about their health or the strength of their immune system. We all went through some sort of major transition, and that is what I'd like to focus on here.
I entered the field of Academic Technology in the year 2000 when it was only starting to be a thing. Very few schools were doing anything. "Best Practices" wasn't even a phrase yet, but technology was beginning to allow us so many opportunities. One thing we have known all along is that we could work from home. Not everyone could, and often times the infrastructure was not in place to allow us to be able to consistently work from home. There were trainings and workshops that were simply necessary to conduct in person (and still are). We made a lot of mistakes back in those days. We assumed a lot, being stuck in a crossfire of Academic mastery, IT policies, and financial questions around whether or not pricing should be the same price for an online class when compared to its face-to-face counterpart. We really got lost in the weeds on some issues that we now realize aren't all that important, and we were tasked with making decisions that other people and departments should have. But one school after another started getting on board, whether it was online programs, or simply using an LMS to enhance traditional instruction. Depending on a school's size and endowment, the department's size and funding, and how the individuals are perceived are all vastly important details.
By now, most of us have had at least some experience working from home. I would say the lucky among us have had remote gigs in the past. The Covid-19 pandemic culture failed in so many ways by forcing everyone home, usually without any sort of guidance of initial expectations, or even any advice on even how to work from home. So many families felt the stress of having to ignore the parent who was now in the guest bedroom, trying to ignore the commentary of the house, or the banter of the children, or the projects that were now apparent. No one received any training for setting up the necessary boundaries of a work-from-home employee.
So many people in leadership roles were not advocating for their people to have that freedom leading us to 2020, and when it was forced on them, it was a devastating adjustment time. I have read many stories and emails from those adjusting to the new culture of isolation, and the dark cloud of work-oversight that still loomed over them.
My challenge is to those who have direct reports; Support Supervisors, Managers, Directors. Trust your employees. Give them space. Encourage them. Be real with them. No one responds positively to threats, but everyone blossoms with candid conversations. During your web meetings, are you giving deadlines and threats, or are you allowing for community and kudos?
One thing I have learned in all my years is that people learn by engagement. Technology shouldn't be the driving force, it is merely a tool. There are many tools that can bring us together, and many tools can help us learn. Look for collaborative solutions rather than hunting down the guilty party. Focus on the person and not the problems.