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  • Writer's pictureMonique Thomas

Do you have a "home turf" advantage?

Magnificant sees you...even if you are not seen at work.

It is an ironic thing, no?

For people who struggle to feel seen or heard at work, operating under social distancing might seem like a cruel and unusual joke. The water-cooler talk, now replaced exclusively with chirps, beeps, and pings, is even farther from your cube. Could the remote-only access to colleagues just make a silenced person go from "who was that?" to "what was that?" Ping.

This morning, from the comfort of my comfy chair (with slippers on), I say: maybe not. If I were bold, I would say: definitely not. Actually, I think all of us working from home presents a revolutionary opportunity for professional settings.

Work From Home as a Positive Work Experience

Whether you like it or not, "home" and state just combined. For those of us who fiercely guard our "private selves" and our "work selves," this time can be very confusing. But, for others who show up like a boss at home, and a question mark at work, this might be your time to shine. Physically being in a space where you have made all the decisions about the colors of the walls or the placement of the furniture can be empowering. Ask Chip. Instant message Joanna! It is because you run your home. And now that home is also your office. (Also, I'm a mom with kids at home. That can be an entirely different post, ok?)

If home is your happy place, perhaps some of that brightness can transfer into power on a web call.

Before you write me off as pollyanna-ish, let me get completely racial on you. (I'll be uncomfortable, then you can be uncomfortable, we'll fake smile and move on, hey just like in the office!) Here it goes: a lot of black people in your workplace are not happy. Is it because of you? No, you're great. It is because many do not experience as many "happy place" moments at work in comparison to their white colleagues. There is emerging empirical evidence out of UCLA that people of color are more likely to quit because of a lack of positive workplace experiences, not just the presence of negative experiences like illegal acts of bias. Evelyn Iritani, who's article, "Positive Work Experiences White Employees Take for Granted are Often Lacking in Other Groups" pointed me to working paper, noted that nearly three-quarters of the racial gap in quit intention related to "quality of work life" really signaled differences in positive experiences. People want to be included. They want to feel invited to the table, be it the boardroom or the lunch counter. They want to believe that you see a future for them with the company. Everyone wants a level of psychological safety in being a part of the in-group. But now...we are mostly just in our now what?

Am I suggesting people of color create their own Wakanda satellites at home?

Well, kinda, yes. There is a level of safety you naturally create in your home. You are in the in-group in your home. Your look, voice, and preferences are less likely to be questioned, and more likely to be honored. This goes for all. So what if we all had the privilege of being honored in the physical place in which we worked? This, is what could be revolutionary. I encourage us each to take advantage of this moment in which we have to rethink work, rules, and culture. You might get to work on your own terms -- maybe now more than before.

This is a time when the subtleties associated with "in-group/out-group" are ironically magnified because many have been eliminated. No one can hear the office banter. The charm of a more attractive colleague may be dimmed by new rules of engagement. Her cheerful demeanor may be less effective at winning hearts and minds compared to your well-designed emails. Be ruthless with your strengths under these new rules. Everyone is focused on the work with no room for any other distraction. (And at its pettiest, ain't nobody for real in a room, bonding, and getting closer without you.)

Now is a beautiful time to be seen. Now, in a time when we cannot be judged for what can be seen in-person, merit and potential might be more neatly considered. Perhaps this moment will allow us to see each other's work anew. You are the head of your home office -- take advantage of that and deliver at the level you always knew you could.

Now this is a "lunch break" I can get behind.



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