I work with the nicest bunch of people.
I will admit that when I first joined the club, I was a bit of a noob when it came to online socialising. The Skype Chat that we use to communicate overwhelmed me. But it didn’t take me long to get the hang of virtual office protocol. Here are the top reasons why I think online trumps onsite for a great office environment.
1. You get to learn a new language
Chatting can be tricky for someone not inducted in the Way of the Smiley. A simple sentence can be taken a multitude of ways! The addition of an emoticon lets people know exactly how you meant it. We use a lot of ‘pet’ names, such as ‘honey’, ‘sweetie’ and the occasional ‘doofus’. These tactics are essential in inferring the tone or sub-meaning to your words. We don’t have body language or facial expression to work with so we learn fast to be crystal clear in what we type. This carries forward into ‘real’ life. I can call someone I just met ‘dear’ and it helps me break the ice. I was never good at small talk or meeting new people before I started this job!
2. You make instant ‘turn-off-and-on-able’ friends
I will never meet some of my colleagues. We are spread across the globe. They will never witness me yelling at my kids or see the state of the house. I can speak to these people freely, without fear of retribution. They are not going to mention it to my husband or my mother. This creates an immediate strong bond of friendship. I can tell someone that I have known for four hours all about my son’s medical problems. They will listen and sympathise. One of my best friends lives across the Mediterranean from me. We always work adjoining shifts so spend half an hour every day chatting. This is more than I see my best friend who lives over the hill. And the flip side of this instant friendship is that you can disconnect just as fast. If you don’t feel like talking right now, you just don’t. You don’t get disapproving looks or sarcastic comments. You can let a conversation wash over you and not be part of it and chime in when you are ready. No one takes offense.
3. There is no gossip or rivalry
My private conversations stay private. Okay, so it can get a bit confusing remembering which conversation you are having where. I have 13 chat rooms I am part of, and that doesn’t include any private chats that I have open. But because you say what you choose, where you choose, there is no such thing as an office rumour. Any tussles you may be having are apart from general office chat. This also works at a professional level. No-one knows who else might have gone for a promotion. You don’t notice someone in with the boss through the window. There is no scuffle for the bigger office. We are all doing different things in the background. We can’t see it, so we don’t worry why she has more responsibility than us or that we are doing more work than him. And of course, we don’t see others getting reprimanded either. Everyone has equal status.
4. There’s nobody in your space
I don’t have to conform to office standard dress. I don’t have to keep my desk tidy in case a client walks in. No one is going to pop in whilst I’m having coffee and leave a great big pile of papers in my in-tray. OK, they might leave a great big zip file of work for me on Skype, but it doesn’t have the same physical impact! Also, no one is going to nick my stapler or change the brightness on my screen. I do not have to listen to the guy in the next booth’s compulsive whistling. I don’t have the lady on the other side popping her head over the partition to tell me about her cat. In short, I get all the perks of office life without any of the annoying stuff. So there is no tension in the chat rooms. Everyone is relaxed, everyone is friendly, everyone is helpful.
5. The Christmas party is AWESOME
We, as a whole, do not see each other in the real world. So, when we do get together it requires effort and coordination and a big reason. Often we are putting faces to well-loved names for the first time. The atmosphere at these events is great. We are in proper party mode, even holiday mode. We’re not bored with seeing people that we see all day. We are genuinely looking forward to, well, all the things that you just cannot do on Skype. Raising a glass and toasting each other, dancing the cancan or ruining a song at Karaoke. Not to mention that it’s never at the office, so no clearing up after either…
As I am writing this, I am opening the window for five minutes, getting too cold, shutting it, getting too hot. Rinse and repeat. In an office, I would probably have been shot by now. I have just given over my shift to the next worker, who is across the Atlantic from me. We have shared a quick moan about Joe Public, she has asked me for my opinion on how she dealt with a call. I have told her about my cat sitting in the dog’s bowl (oh, my, I AM that lady talking about her cat!). I have found yet another way of saying the soundcheck was fine. Now I have disconnected from work but not from her, as my Skype is still open. I can pop into the office anytime over the next 36 hours before my next shift and say hi. Or not, no one will mind. Because I work with the best bunch of people. Did I mention that already?