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  • Writer's pictureMC Mendez

A changing professional landscape

I recently had a fruitful and very enjoyable experience collaborating with a consultant in creating a workshop dedicated to “Leading Successful Meetings”. The workshop was aimed at project managers of all levels of seniority. Exchanging with them was a real eye opener on how “remote” the working landscape has become and the relational challenges that stem from having to work primarily and mostly from behind a screen.



In my time as project manager or post-production manager I’ve led and attended my fair share of meetings, which were either in person or over the phone, the proverbial “calls”, but since Covid and the emergence of remote working, the landscape seems to have changed quite dramatically. Indeed, we found out from in-person participants that, even though their clients' offices were very close by, 90% of their meetings with them were done remotely. And we found out from the other group, which was made of employees working from abroad, that 100% of their meetings (with clients and colleagues) were carried out remotely, since they didn’t live in Brussels.


From their experience it was quite apparent that work was now mostly done online and nowhere else. Obviously, many advantages could be drawn from this. I, for one, like to optimise my time and that is the biggest benefit our participants have also experienced through that change. They are gaining valuable time. Apparently, productivity has never been higher since remote working has become the norm, so it seems that time gain is being used efficiently by most.


Interestingly, while the participants to the workshop were mostly favourable to carrying out their meetings online, for that very reason, they also felt the need to re-introduce in-person meetings from time to time, especially in difficult or tense situations. But when they did try, their clients were rather hesitant or even reticent to the notion. And I think this is the other facet of remote working. For some people, remote working has also been an opportunity to retreat to a comfortable and secure environment, which has numerous perks. But isn’t there a risk that eventually that retreat might become an opportunity to hide? And then, that in the long run, “out of sight” does really turn into “out of mind”?


"Another interesting fact highlighted by our participants was that certain collaborators or clients would apparently adopt disrespectful or impolite discourses or behaviours online, when they never used to in person. Is remote working changing us? Could it be desensitising for some? Which begs the question of “what becomes of professional bonds or relationships when working online in the long term”? Is there a risk that the geographical distance, the lack of “real” human interaction, the security of being home or behind a screen eventually turn us all into trolls? "

Maybe existing relationships are easier to keep afloat, but what of those new relationships with clients, colleagues, collaborators we’ve never met in person? In my mentor and coaching practice, I am sometimes asked by new clients for a first meeting in person, to get to know each other and then we carry on our work remotely after that. Having said that, I have also many clients I have only ever met online as they leave abroad or don’t have the time to travel to me. Is the relationship any less authentic?


I don’t actually think it is, because when we connect and start the work, it’s about just that and I am as present online as I am in person, but I think there is a very important factor that facilitates that. When I coach or mentor, the exchanges are always one-on-one. I really do believe that group dynamics are harder to deal with online, even more so with Hybrid meetings, where two contexts and multiple energies have to coexist.


While I really don’t mind coaching remotely, I find giving or following courses online quite challenging. All the "in between moments" where you might chat with someone, or join a group in a discussion during a break, help your neighbour by giving them a pen etc… are lost. We also lose a fair amount of non-verbal cues when meeting people remotely and we lose certain opportunities to connect. The interactions we have online are mostly linked to the content at hand (to what we are there to do) there are very few opportunities to just being human amongst other humans and being spontaneous. We lose those impromptu “chance” moments.

I also wondered if there was also a generational aspect to this? I am part of the generation X. My formative years were not digital. Internet became a thing just as I was leaving College so I was able to catch that wagon just as I started my professional career. At the time, I was fascinated by these new technologies and the communication channels they offered (Email, Skype and chatting). Today however, I feel overwhelmed by all the apps, social networks and technologies available to us. My wagon, so to speak, has been overtaken by a speedier train with all the generations Y and Z on board. Yet we all have to cohabitate and function in this increasingly digital professional landscape.


Still, I remain optimistic. At the end of the day, it is up to all of us to change the way we approach remote meetings/interactions to make sure efficiency doesn’t replace the human and humane aspects of collaborating. Because isn’t being human and feeling connected to others and recognised by others, at the heart of what keeps us motivated and efficient in our work?

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