You might also remember the famed scene in which, through the glass, he shared with Clarice, the FBI agent, his culinary preferences, saying, "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."By the way, in the original book by Thomas Harris, Lecter’s red wine is "Amarone",a much more appropriate choice. However the film bosses feared that Amarone would not ring a bell with the barbarian cinema-goers, hence the Chianti. This is entirely an aside. The strength of the film lies in establishing a forced connection between the agent and the serial killer. Not only because the FBI has to remotely dissect Hannibal's cryptic clues without testing them out with him but also, during their sparse conversations, they are literally separated by a glass barrier. Since the outbreak of the Corona crisis, we can all imagine how difficult it is to connect remotely or behind glass. The latter is possible literally, as seen with the plexiglass at the checkout in the supermarket, but also figuratively in the glass of a smartphone screen. We also hear more and more that, from now on, working remotely behind a screen will become the new normal. We must first ask ourselves the critical question - is that always agood thing? 

©Hannibal Lecter

Working remotely can be a good thing. For example, studies of working from home indicate that our productivity often increases. The frustration with commuting disappears and many organizations have seen an increase in job satisfaction and retention since the introduction of home working. However, critical voices can also be heard. The distraction at home can cause extra stress and people quickly miss social contact with colleagues and like-minded people. Moreover, when it comes to creativity, we see that actually bringing people together leads to the creation of other ideas by utilizing different perspectives. In short, as always, the answer is ambiguous and the questionarises as to how we can use the advantages while limiting the disadvantages.

First of all, when it comes to working from home we have to work on having better arrangments. Trust, a theme that we will return to later, is created by installing predictability. And there is no easier way to do that than to clearly formulate time and place expectations in times of independent work. Think of topics such as availability, or when to use which communication channel. Everyone gets frustrated when a colleague does not answer the phone while sending emails. Agree and avoid conflicts in the relationship! Even after the crisis, it would be good to speak about which activities require personal contact. This is an offshoot of "activity based working"; the agreements about which space, people and methodologies we use to successfully complete a certain activity.   

We would also do well to give autonomy. I'm surprised to learn how many acquaintances working from home have to keep track of what they've done and when. The cause for this is often twofold. First, many organizations speak of trust but don't give it, yet the majority of people thrive on results. They flourish when given the freedom to achieve them. Arnoud and I found a good example of this in Hudiel, known to many through our video "the polyglot". This man never had the opportunity to study, let alone enter a language course. Yet he managed to learn twelve languages on his own. He did this by making autonomous contact with tourists and asking them for help in his learning process, not by following an imposed study plan. This also brings us to a second reason why trust is sometimes lacking. Many organizations find it difficult to translate big ambitions into result-oriented objectives. These objectives contain the what, and especially the why, of a result to be achieved. If the “why” is engaged, people will naturally look creatively for the "how". Just think of Hudiel, his "why" to master languages was to connect with customers in their own language. In this way he made the difference not only for them, but also for his business.

And a final tip is found in the term "structured unstructured time". This refers to communicating in a structured manner but in a spontaneous, unstructured way, about things that are not fixed. You can compare it with conversations at the coffee corner, "chit-chat" or kicking off a meeting. Because we make time for them, those conversations are quite common. They often create a relaxed atmosphere and contribute to mutual understanding. Well, the distance between us today should not be a reason for these conversations not to take place. They should form a structural part of our working life. You can easily organize this digitally. For example, our colleague Joke initiated an e-pero for the volunteers. As a Mobile School-StreetwiZe team, we have a team catch-up with only one goal, to find out how everyone is doing. You can also, just like me, pick up the phone more often and have a "check in" with someone. Connection creates trust and mutual understanding. And we really don't get that just by exchanging some fun whatsapp messages!


And if you want to excuse me now, there's a bottle of Chianti waiting for me ... or was it Amarone?