The world of work seems a little flatter now than it did just a few years ago. Zoom meetings have created a phenomenon. And, I’m not talking about the fact that we’re using a new technology. It’s flattened our relationships.
It reminds me of the military. Whether you’re in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force, when in uniform, there are clear signals about who is who. You can tell which branch of the military someone is in. And, you can see what rank they hold. There is a system that is used to navigate the social work structure within the military. But, without a uniform, it is much harder to guess these details.
In a similar way, working from home has taken away many of the social cues that are normally present in the workplace. It is now difficult to see which designer shoes or clothes someone is wearing. And, in fact, the entire team may have switched to comfortable clothes for the day to day.
Working from home and Zoom also take away some of the hierarchy present at in person meetings. Executives are no longer trying to snag the most influential seat at the conference room table. Video meetings also create a structure where people are more easily able to speak up. And, forget status symbols such as cufflinks.
For remote workers, there are also no longer bigger offices for people with bigger job titles. In other words, everyone is a little more equal. We are all individual people who are working at our individual jobs.
There are many positives that come along with a flatter working world. But, with every positive, there are also challenges. For example, a flatter organization also means that people will interact with one another at all levels. The normal hierarchy is less clear.
You’ll likely engage with colleagues who are both at higher and lower levels than ever before. It may be unclear what age they are, or how senior their roles are. But one thing is for sure. Each and every person should be treated with respect. This is such a key to working well as a virtual team.
Have you ever noticed that people sometimes change their behavior online? For example, some people are more comfortable being rude to others on Facebook and Twitter. The same can be said for remote work. In addition to a flatter organization, relationships are shallower. When is the last time you had a deep conversation with a colleague? Do you know how many children your coworkers have? When is the last time you had lunch with anyone from your work?
The less that we know one another, and the more we’re interacting across the company, the more likely tension is to build. If you find yourself in this situation, try to remember this. We’re all part of one team. We should work together, rather than against one another – for common goals.