One of the reasons I was drawn to librarianship is the connections we create with our constituency and among ourselves. As we emerged from the pandemic at full speed, a significant change observed was the way we related to one another. It was unsurprising to me that data from the pandemic’s peak highlighted employees’ feelings of disconnection. Three years later, it is apparent that this is a lingering, persistent feeling as we attempt to navigate the so-called Great Return.
This isn’t a critique of work-from-home or hybrid work setups. Instead, I’m curious about how everyone is reconnecting in this familiar yet changed “post-pandemic” landscape. I am certain many of those reading this have had a recent experience with COVID-19 making its way through the ranks of family and coworkers once again or people leaving for new jobs or retiring. I’m particularly interested in how others in law librarianship manage to forge these deeper connections, given the constant ebb and flow of new and departing colleagues which has recently accelerated.
Here is my personal experience, surely not unique to me. I often collaborate with colleagues and I’m usually familiar with their professional credentials: standard educational background, career trajectory, and current role. Yet, I find myself wondering whether I truly know the people I spend so many hours working alongside. Are they comfortable being themselves in this environment? Beyond conversations orbiting work, how often do we delve into their hobbies or interests? It’s easy to discuss professional achievements, but digging deeper can be challenging. I’m always eager to discover the stories beyond the C.V. Sometimes you might find out that a colleague gardens in the “real world” or in Stardew Valley. Some might express themselves through painting or fiber arts, some might find peace in the backcountry or rock climbing. Others might lose themselves in novels or films. Engaging with more reserved colleagues may require a different approach and giving them the time they need to open can be beneficial. Initiating conversations about your own hobbies and interests can be a way to signal to them that you’re approachable, allowing them the choice to share more about themselves or maintain their privacy. There is always a potential concern about intruding into personal spaces at work. Yet, my experience is that these conversations are fulfilling and enrich our professional relationships when approached with care.
Engaging in discussions about personal passions can foster stronger bonds, adding a layer of enjoyment to work and collaborative projects. These connections introduce authenticity into the working place. As simple as being able to skip the generic, superficial “How was your weekend?” and instead asking, “Did you check out that new hiking trail?” or “How’s that Hendrix novel you were reading? Would you recommend it?” I think these questions not only showcase your attentiveness but also promote deeper, more meaningful interactions. I personally light up when someone shows interest in my hobbies. One of my most cherished gifts was a tile featuring a Gila monster currently displayed in my office, given by a colleague who appreciated my efforts to spot one in nature.
My point is that maybe we all share a role in promoting workplace connectivity, especially after the pandemic. Maybe we should delve deeper. Ask a coworker about their latest DND campaign, about their newly learned stitch, their Bookstagram reviews, their marathon, their art collective, or recent culinary concoction. We work with some amazing people with diverse interests. I think we would be surprised what we learn about each other. When curious about a colleague’s background, I encourage you to go beyond their job role and explore the experiences and passions that define them. Connecting with the person behind the role makes a tremendous difference in belonging at work.
This wouldn’t be a post by a librarian without a reading list:
- How to Add More Human Connection to Your Teams, Your Culture, and Your Business
- How Leader Can Build Connection in a Disconnected Workplace
- How to Improve Connection in the Workplace as Business Evolves
Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.