Awkward moments happen to everyone from time to time — even virtually. But the more we can all learn to laugh about these moments, the less awkward they’ll be. Here are a few moments you may encounter while working from home.
- Realizing you’ve worn the same shirt on almost every video call you’ve had this week.
- When someone notices you’re business on top, party on the bottom.
- Thinking of a really great idea in a meeting only to realize that you started accidentally talking over someone, and then vowing to never speak again.
- When your pet makes a special appearance in your very important meeting.
- Smiling and laughing along with your colleagues as they reminisce about the office you’ve never been to.
At my first job out of college, my coworker and I would often fight over the title of “most awkward person in the office.” I know it doesn’t seem like a title you would want, but it was our way of coping with the inevitable feelings of social awkwardness that we all experience at work sometimes — you know, waving to a colleague who is waving to the colleague behind you, or having to jog for the door because your boss waits, holding it, a whole 30 feet ahead.
As an introvert and generally anxious person, it seems like this kind of stuff happens to me a lot. Which is why, back then, it felt nice to acknowledge — and even celebrate — it a little. It’s become one way for me to connect with others because I’ve realized just how universal these experiences and feelings are.
Now, with virtual work being the “new normal,” these awkward encounters have taken on a “new normal” of their own. We’ve had to re-learn how to communicate with each other. Our coworkers are getting an actual window into our lives. With that can come some pretty interesting moments.
So let’s talk about that: It’s been kind of weird. That’s okay. Acknowledging, embracing and celebrating it will only bring us closer together. And in this socially distant world, that’s something that we need right now. After all, these things happen to everyone, right? Right?
1) Realizing you’ve worn the same shirt on almost every video call you’ve had this week.
The rules that apply to office attire just aren’t the same in the virtual world. Yes, you need to be professional — especially if you’re giving a big presentation or something. But, listen, I have a favorite sweater, and I’m not going to be shy about that. Until someone points out that I’ve worn it every day this week. Oops. I swear, I did laundry on Wednesday.
2) When someone notices you’re business on top, party on the bottom.
Speaking of questionable fashion choices … I don’t think I’ve worn real pants since March. I’m a strictly yoga pants kind of person these days (sorry not sorry). On the off occasion that I do have an important meeting or presentation, I’ll cave and swap out my favorite sweater for one of the forgotten blazers in my closet. But you better believe those yoga pants are staying on. Who is going to notice, right?
3) Thinking of a really great idea in a meeting only to realize that you started accidentally talking over someone, and then vowing to never speak again.
It’s impossible to avoid talking over each other in virtual meetings. You’ve got glitchy WiFi, pesky mute buttons, hard-to-read body language — it’s the perfect storm. So why does it still feel so terrible and awkward every time it happens? Can we all just collectively agree that this is fine? And that as long as we respect each other, this doesn’t have to be awkward anymore? Cool? Cool.
4) When your pet makes a special appearance in your very important meeting.
I (unfortunately) don’t have any pets. So for me, someone’s dog or cat popping into frame during a meeting gives me that little boost of serotonin I need to get through my day. But for the pet owner, I imagine the interruption isn’t always welcome — especially if it’s a brand new puppy who accidentally has an accident on their lap, which may or may not have happened to one of my colleagues last week on Zoom. Think about it this way: They’re just trying to help you get your work done faster so you can get back to cuddles.
5) Smiling and laughing along with your colleagues as they reminisce about the office you’ve never been to.
If you started a new job remotely in the past few months (or ever really), this one’s for you. (And I’m right here with ya.) Regardless, I’m sure you can relate to the awkwardness that comes with laughing along to a joke you don’t understand. That’s kind of what it feels like to pretend you know what your coworkers are talking about when they mention the coveted office. I’ve heard beautiful stories about book-lined walls, ping pong tournaments, and cupcake-fueled meetings. But for now, all I can do is smile wistfully and hope that no one can tell I’m totally faking it.
—Source: Harvard Business Review