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Inside My Bubble: Where Technology Loses Touch

COVID-19 has presented us all in New Zealand with a huge challenge, both economically and mentally. And that's before we even mention the obvious threat to our health. We've all had to quickly adapt to working remotely from home, with the finish line still some way out in the distance. Sian Clements, one of Auckland based consultants, offers her views as to what she's learned after 23 days in lock down, working a recruiters life remotely.

My job as an IT recruiter is all about people.

From big corporate clients (believe it or not, they’re full of great people who i enjoy having chats and coffees with); through to the small business owners who get excited when I visit their work space…. I work with a range of special clients. And, of course, don’t forget the vast number of contractors and candidates I regularly talk to, interview or meet and share a coffee with. These wonderful humans are the reason why I enjoy the work that I do. And here’s the thing. After three weeks of lockdown, I’ve realized how badly I’m missing those simple face to face interactions and visits, even as a natural introvert.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m am absolutely loving working from home for the most part. Besides the fact that I feel like I’m getting more done each day, I’m also lucky enough to appreciate that I am getting to know my 9 year old much better due to us being with each other more every day. I’m exercising (I don’t exercise, other than run around at work or chase my son with a football on a Saturday afternoon), I’m eating cleaner and cooking meals most nights rather than having takeaways. I’m also really fortunate to have a better half who loves to prepare amazing, smoked BBQ meats on the coal Weber (African style), and he and my son also bake a mean banana bread and fantastic cupcakes! What’s not to like, right?!

So when our Prime Minister jumped up and said “We’re going to work on how we can begin to go back to some form of normal”, I’m sure many of you, like me, thought “Hmmm….why? I can do my work from all from home!” And chances are you’re right, so….tell me why again?

Well that’s my big question. Why on earth do I want to go back to sitting in traffic for more than two hours a day? Sometimes I’m the last to arrive in the office due to traffic, or worse, I’m first to arrive, flicking on the lights with no one there to welcome you with a smile.

Sian Clements

Winter is on our doorstep, and so begins the familiar ritual of running in from the carpark to the office, trying to escape sudden heavy rain showers, all the while avoiding that Uber driver who almost accidently hit you when you sprinted across the street! Then finally getting to the office doorway dripping wet and wondering “how the heck I am going get dry before my first meeting?” Sound familiar?

I think I know why. As I sit here on Day 20.. (actually Day 23, but who’s counting?)… and after chatting to my colleague who I’ve known for around six years, we notice something. There’s just no small talk… Well, there is, but it’s different. And even though we have two to three video chats a day, talking about the day and spending a good 20 minutes or so smashing out the NZ Herald and Stuff Quizzes, our level of engagement is different. The small talk, banter and lighter style conversation is…. struggling a bit.

When we try to talk, poor old Zoom or Microsoft Teams is trying to figure out when to throw you into the conversation, and you run the risk accidentally talking over or interrupting each other if you get the timing wrong! Then, you have to work hard just to be heard against the person who speaks the loudest, as well as the challenge of thinking of something of value to say in order to contribute the conversation!

And that’s just our Auckland team. God forbid if you add the Wellington team to our chat… It’s near on impossible to get a word in with all those big personalities on the call! I think it’s just that much harder now chatting as individuals from all our homes, rather than those times when we were on a Skype call together with both teams in our respective boardrooms bantering on our regular Friday night drinks catch up over an unstable internet connection.

It’s these little subtleties that add up, and are the parts we don’t want to lose in our interactions. The main reason you hire or go to work for someone is because you like them; you enjoy their company, love the banter and appreciate simply hanging out together, sharing stories and laughing with each other.

So if you ask me, when it’s time to start to go back and work from the office, will I do so? 100% yes! Maybe not all 365 days of the year! I miss walking to get lunch each day in our groups getting our chicken sandwich from countdown or sushi from the lobby, and the ability to walk up to someone’s desk and find out how their family is, or how the weekend fixing a fence was.

It’s not because I can do my job better in an office environment… (To be fair, I probably can’t). Rather, it’s because I like who I work with and that’s why I work where I do. And it’s also why I can’t wait for us to work together as a collective group, under the same roof again sometime soon.

Sian Clements is a Senior Recruitment Consultant at Younity based in Auckland, specialising in technical recruitment across Software Development, Data, BI and Analytics and a wide variety of other technical roles.

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