It is perfectly normal to walk up to a colleague and talk about the movie you watched last evening. It isn’t acceptable to get on a call or an online meeting to do that.
At the office, you can talk about the weather with the person beside you while waiting for the all-hands-meeting to start. Online, it isn’t kosher to do that with 25 others on the call.
At a team outing, it is acceptable to talk about your life’s story after hanging out for three hours and chugging down a couple of beers. Remotely, it is nearly impossible to organize a casual hang-out that lasts three hours.
Those moments of casual socializing are to a company’s culture what vitamins and minerals are to our diet. You need them in small measure for a healthy work culture. When they are lacking for too long, the organization suffers from a deficiency disease.
With the massive shift to remote work, the creative challenge that lies ahead of us is to think of ways in which we can all chill out a little from behind a computer screen.
2 thoughts on “Chilling out online”
The assumption here is that we all *want* to chill with our coworkers. In the remote world, it is possible that there is no longer a desire to chill with one’s coworkers (chilling can be done with people you really *want* to chill with). Work and chilling kept separate – sounds robotic and dystopian, but in reality, the chilling time might actually be of higher quality since it is on one’s own terms.
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I think there are two separate aspects at play here.
1. The first aspect is practical. Some amount of casual socializing is helpful for effective collaboration in most workplaces today. While some people have started operating in jobs that have a purely transactional relationship with their colleagues, which completely obviates this need, most jobs aren’t there yet.
2. The second is more idealistic. Quite contrary to libertarian utopians, I subscribe to a school of thought that work serves a higher purpose in our lives than merely remuneration. And ideally, people within a specific organization would share and work towards that higher purpose in a fraternal work atmosphere, far removed from the clear division of labour and sterile anonymization that industrialism has wrought in today’s workplaces. In such a workplace, one would enjoy chilling out with one’s colleagues. If not, they are in the wrong jobs.