Teaming in 2019 vs. 2020 vs. 2021

Get fucking vaccinated.

(I may lose friends.) (I am ready.)

My thesis here adds the notion of how it improves team bonding now that the COVID-19 vaccine is more available, but don’t kid yourself: this is my using whatever platform I think I have to…

I shouldn’t kid myself: I don’t foresee this changing anybody’s mind: you’re either vax’d (“benefits outweigh risks”), medically advised to not do so (“risks outweigh benefits”), or straight up conspiratorial (insert bullshit rationale here). So like the rest of this blog, this is for me, now channeling, hopefully constructively, any rage I have around this issue as I think aloud about how our not-100% vaccination rate is preventing Agile teams from being fully awesome.

You have a responsibility to your fellow citizens, and I now argue also your team at work, to get vaccinated.

Teaming in 2019

Let’s say… your team is co-located.

Maybe it’s not a daily reality, but at least a quarterly event.

You break bread together. You grab a cortado. You step away from the crowd to have a side conversation. You make actual eye contact. You read body language. Your playful interruptions are more readily incorporated into the conversation without ruining the flow. You empathetically touch one another. You shake hands. You hug.

You are taking full advantage of Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s research on elements of personal communication:

  • 7% spoken words
  • 38% voice & tone
  • 55% body language

No social distancing. No masks. You can physically connect with another human being.

Oh, and you can also smell each other.

Zoom can’t give you that.

Teaming in 2020

Let’s say… you have a job. And you’re working from home.

Everybody’s world is turned upside down. There may be a local, or at worst national, lock-down. Folks are worried about supplies. (Sound familiar?) We’re grateful for folks we suddenly term “essential workers”. Masks. Social distancing. Hand sanitizing. Hand washing. Hand washing. Hand washing. People are getting sick. People are dying.

I started a job in late May. Communication is through the laptop: chat, email, Zoom. I pile board game boxes onto a mini-locker in my bedroom, with laptop at higher level, with notebook at lower level, with headboard behind my left shoulder, with fuzzy pajama pants hanging up just off screen, with windows in front of my make-shift standing desk to light my face.

Collaborating takes extra time. Each interruption is more awkward because of audio and/or video lag. People are on mute. Other people are not on mute. Mural is just not a whiteboard. Quick impromptu side-conversations beyond chat require a break-out room to be effective.

Bonding takes extra time. More one-on-ones. More squinting at the framed faces on Zoom, if their video is on, to see people’s reactions in real-time. Definitely none of those casual encounters at the water cooler.

Bonding may take place online, via sharing the presence of kids ‘n’ pets who wander in & out of the screen. Or via sharing details about your background.

Bonding may take place in real life, yet masked. And/or outdoors. And/or socially distanced. With a mental undercurrent of, “I hope you’re not an asymptomatic carrier, and then I bring it back to my family, and then they get it.” It requires more yelling, with clearer enunciation. And/or enhanced facial reading, since you only have the top half to work with.

Connecting with another human being is harder.

Teaming in 2021

Let’s say… you’ve been well over a year like this.

Maybe it’s not your preferred reality, but you’ve got a job during a pandemic, adding stability while other aspects of life flux.

I don’t know about you, but I miss the social aspect of the office. The bad coffee down the hall. The good coffee across the street. The walks with a peer. The white board sessions.

Yes, working from home has its benefits, too… yet they do not completely replace the social aspect. (They may compensate, but not replace.)

As an extrovert, I’m surprised I haven’t clawed my face off at the lack of variety of social interaction. I guess I don’t need it all the time. I guess I don’t want it all the time. I would, however, like it sometimes. Like the before-times.

And now there is a vaccine. Available to all to most to those in a country that can pull it off financially.

What would it take to team in 2021, like we would in 2019?

Imagine Teaming Again

Scroll back up to the ‘2019’ part of this blog post.

Why wouldn’t we want to give ourselves this possibility?

Want to build trust? Let’s be vulnerable together, fully expressing ourselves together, demonstrating the low bar of physical safety as we work through things together over time.

Want psychological safety? Let’s share our ideas, have them criticized, and engage in other feedback by our complete selves without hiding behind a camera and keyboard.

Want to feel more human again? Let’s embrace the social nature of our species and share space together.

This is not theoretical. YOU have this in YOUR recent experience. Your team in 2019 may not have been awesome, but aspects of that were better than a 2020 experience.

Whether or not you feel this at the level of a ‘responsibility’ to your teammates, let me offer this emotional appeal to YOUR emotions, and YOUR experience.

Let’s bring more of our complete selves to each other in 2021.

What’s your part?

I know this ain’t a HBR-worthy article, but y’gotta press ‘Publish…’ at some point.