Career Corner: Collaboration, at a Distance

Despite many misgivings, we’ve managed to work and collaborate from a distance. | Courtesy photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Businesses are beginning to worry and it’s not what you’d think. As the COVID-19 vaccines are distributed around the country, the ability for workers to go back to the office is becoming a real possibility for the first time in a long time. This should be great news. The problem is, the pandemic has gone on for an entire year now. For those who have desk jobs, it’s been proven that you can work from home.

Many workers are considering a move to a cheaper city where their money will go further. Some have already moved to be closer to family for the time being. In spite of the downsides of the pandemic, for desk workers, this has been one of the upsides. And there have been no more big commutes and more flexibility overall. That flexibility is providing some added level of work-life balance.

But, as things with the pandemic wind down, employers who want their employees to come back in person have a tough road ahead. How will they make the case? Typically, the case to do a desk job in person is collaboration. To be creative and productive, we need to be together.

In fairness, it’s been hard to be as collaborative over the last year. We have been disconnected. We’ve been fighting every day to make things as normal as possible, in the most unusual circumstances. We have lived through isolation, health issues, home schooling, and in some cases, loss.

But we’ve done it. We are still getting up every day, still fighting, and still working.

When things do go back to normal, a weight will be lifted. Kids will go back to school. We will be able to socialize. We won’t have to worry so much. And with that weight lifted alone, productivity will increase.

Before the pandemic, there were already companies that were virtual, allowing employees to work from home. One observed that employees who joined their company from a traditional brick and mortar organization took time to adjust. In fact, in many cases, it took one year. Maybe that’s what we’ve been experiencing: an adjustment year. And we did it, despite many, many challenges.

If you’re a manager, consider this. Employees are often happier working from home. They’re typically more productive and, frankly, it’s cheaper for the company. You no longer have to pay for all that expensive office space and it opens your hiring options up to the entire country.

In many cases, in person work is more about control and less about results. If you force people to come back, be sure you have good reasons. Talk to your employees. Listen to what they want. Ask them if they’ve been more productive at home. If you don’t, you may lose some of your people. After all, employees want choices and there are plenty of companies willing to give them choices in today’s working environment.

Angela Copeland, a career expert and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at

March 18, 2021

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Angela Copeland

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