As businesses relax their restrictions across the country, eighteen months of life as an avatar has left many of us feeling a little nervous about ditching the slippers...
Last week I had my very first in-person, face-to-thirty-other-faces NetworkIN meeting in over two years. I’d joined my group mid-pandemic so, up until this point, I was never really sure the other members were actual real, living, breathing, I-drink-gin-from-my-teacup-on-a-Zoom-call human beings too. But I was eager as a beaver to find out.
At the same time, while running out of the house in absolute joy at the prospect of seeing (maybe even… touching??) other people, I still felt nervous and uncertain.
Do I hug? Which shoes should I wear? Should I hug? I’d better pluck my eyebrows… How long to get there? How about the Japanese bow thing? My clothes don’t fit! Can I pull off a fist bump?
If launching yourself back into the physical world after months expending no more effort than deciding which Zoom backdrop to try next feels a bit overwhelming, I’m with you. There are so many things to consider that simply weren’t an issue when all we had to do was drag ourselves out of bed and jump on the laptop. Like putting on trousers or brushing our teeth – wasn’t really mandatory, was it?
For me, one thing was certain: that as things started to get back to this weird new post-normal ‘normal’, I needed to fully deep-clean and re-engage with my professional self. And this… THIS was going to mean confronting an old nemesis of mine.
Timekeeping (you slippery devil, you)
I know it’s not just me, but damn am I bad at the simple process of turning up on time. So, while not teaching anyone’s grandma to suck free-range and ethically sustainable lockdown eggs, here are a few of my tips to banish last-minute lateness and get you to the NetworkIN meeting on time.
1. Schedule like a smart-ass
Rush hour, school run, parking up, walking to, finding the place, signing in, chatting with those people you’ve met before, peering at those you’re not sure if you’ve met before because they look different in the flesh compared to their tiny little stamp-sized head on your computer… Allow. Enough. Time.
2. Get enough sleep
Ditch your Netflix boxset at a reasonable hour and check your alarm clock still works. Did you join an early breakfast meeting while on lockdown? You’re going to need it.
3. Prep the night before
Got your directions? Or at least the address? Petrol in the tank? Your local filling station? (Can of worms…) Choose your outfit. Choose your shoes (remember them?) And you might want to prep your one-minute message as reading off the screen in a room full of thirty other people? Not gonna fly, my friend.
4. Set your watch early
If you’re like me, you’ve done this before and you soon learnt to allow for it. So how about you use an odd number so the ‘correct’ time can’t be easily calculated. Instead of 15 minutes ahead, set it 17 minutes ahead. Or 23 minutes ahead? Let’s see you try to compute that at five-forty-six on a Monday morning while searching for your face mask and rummaging through laundry for a clean pair of socks.
5. That thing, that thing – that one more thing
Checking social media, tidying up, unloading the dishwasher, sending a quick email to the school, sending a quick email to a prospective client (you can tell I’m guilty, can’t you?) sending a quick email to the energy company, to your mother-in-law, to your… Stop it. Now.
6. And if all else fails…
Please switch to an online group. You are no good in the flesh and blood. You work better as a postage stamp we can hover over to check your name.
As it turns out, the other members are indeed real. Like, really real. And there's no avoiding it: timekeeping always will be the cornerstone of professionalism.
But also find out the rules of your venue. Be prepared and be respectful. (I feel another blog coming on…) You don’t know who has a health condition you don’t know about, who may be immunocompromised. You also don’t know who may have someone like that within their circle at home.
Now, more than ever, it’s vital to show respect to our fellow human beings. We sure as hell wouldn’t want them to go away again now, would we?
See you at 6.45am. I’ve missed you.
Note on author: You won’t see Debbie at 6.45am. As aspirational as she is, deluded she is not. You’ll see her at a much more achievable 10am on Wednesdays at the Crewe and Congleton NetworkIN team meetings.