What Will An ‘Acceptable Professional’ Eventually Look Like When Working-From-Home?

2020 was a challenge, even for those who didn’t face a healthcare emergency. For many people it not only involved an adjustment to working from home, but also a dramatic shift in social norms and values. Zoom has become a verb in the past year and virtual happy hours have been an unlikely respite from the crisis.

But what about 2021? Picture the situation, you’re trying to impress a new client, or you are on a review call with your boss, or even a job interview. But now that you are working from home (WFH) you are struggling to come across as the professional you want to be seen as.

Maybe your broadband keeps cutting in and out or your cat keeps walking in front of the camera? Your dog is barking because there is a delivery at the front door, or your kids are home-schooling and creating a lot more noise than studying kids should really be creating. Is your presentation affecting your chances of that new job or new contract?

These are unprecedented times. Values have been changing quickly, just look at how unusual it is to see anyone wearing a tie today. Everyone is aware of the difficulties of working from home, especially for those who have been suddenly forced into this situation by the pandemic.

But this will not always be the case. It is now more than a year since most office-based professionals needed to move into a WFH environment. The noisy kids and rogue cats were easily tolerated in May 2020, but by May 2021 everyone has had a long period to adjust.

As we exit the lockdowns many people will return to their office. Some will choose to continue in a WFH environment and some will be asked by their company to stay at home. There will be a change in attitude as some normality returns.

If you are migrating from the office to a permanent WFH environment then I doubt that people will always be so forgiving in future. It is no longer an emergency situation or something forced upon unwilling employees. If you are choosing to remain at home then you need to start considering what does an acceptable professional WFH environment really look like?

For important meetings, clients will not expect to see people in hoodies, at kitchen tables, with pets and poor connectivity. The flexibility and casualness that we all experienced during the midst of the pandemic will start to dissolve as we all have a choice to project a more professional image.

As WFH becomes more of a choice than a necessity, and companies break down the barriers between office-based and WFH employees, I believe that expectations of WFH professionalism will unquestionably increase. And while it’s unlikely that companies will issue a rule book, WFH employees might want to review:

  • What they wear
  • Their video background
  • Background noise
  • Timekeeping
  • Tone of communication
  • Connectivity
  • Privacy
  • Health and safety
  • Security
  • Communications equipment

It’s great news that so many people are being vaccinated now and 2021 holds the promise of some normality. For those who choose to remain at home, just take a moment to think about how to project yourself because (hopefully) this crisis should now be in the past.

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