Connection with people is an indispensable part of our human culture. We reach out and incline towards human connection when we are experiencing the stress and pressures of life’s challenges. This biological programming drives us to gather in groups, usually protecting us from mental and physical harm.
Today, we are faced with a community challenge as the COVID-19 pandemic. This new risk challenges us to be creative by the way we maintain our social connections and deal with our psychological and physical wellbeing.
It is a disaster affecting individuals, communities, societies and nations across the world. It is also increasingly affecting the global economy. Many companies and organizations are completely affected by this global threat however; they have not come to a standstill. #WorkFromHome is the current trend for all the working professionals. The organizations can put their corporate eLearning tools and ability to work remotely to bridge the distance and keep the teams connected from anywhere in the world.
We are all being urged to adopt “social distancing” methods to constrain and limit the spread of COVID-19. Many organizations are allowing, encouraging, or expecting employees to work remotely. Colleges and Universities have sent their students back home and encourage taking up Online Learning to replace face-to-face classroom instruction. Even when we do see people, we are not to touch or even get within 1 meter distance of them. This change has compelled ‘social distance’ and deserted for mostly those people who are not used to working and learning from home.
Some people may love to work from home as they rejoice the silence, the capability to work without interruption, and to take breaks whenever needed. On the other hand, work from home would not be a cup of tea for many people. The absence of the office hustle and bustle could make these people suffer from feelings of isolation and disorientation.
In light of the current situation, the physical distance can be bridged with various eLearning and tele - working tools. It is the need of the hour to maintain the physical distance (no matter what) in order to keep every citizen safe. At the same time, also maintaining productivity and fostering relationships with your office colleagues is equally important and necessary.
If you are a professional working from home, look at the 4 most useful ways below to create “Social Presence” even while maintaining social distancing!
While you work from home, it is necessary to shift all your usual meetings, coaching sessions and trainings online. The trainer or the manager can head the meeting while the others activate their cameras to watch and participate in the webinar-style. The meeting leads can also ask the other participants for feedback and suggestions by involving them in the discussion. Wherever necessary, remind the silent participants that they exist by calling on them by their names. This is also important when the cameras are off and when you are in large virtual meetings. Some workers who are unfamiliar with virtual meeting may find it to be awkward to actively participate into a videoconference conversation. In fact, video conferencing is a much more effective way of communication as you can see facial expressions and get to know other nonverbal gestures.
A sneak peek of your colleagues’ home offices is a funny element of video calls and meetings. There is a likelihood that a greater period of lockdown means more days of work from home, which will eventually lead all the working professionals to a state of boredom and loneliness.
Video conferencing is a far more effective way of bridging the social distance than a phone call or email.
Wondering around at your workplace or a check-in at your colleague's desk was something that you must have enjoyed doing while at work, but now the work from home mode of working leaves no such scope of wandering around to socialize with your colleagues. You could use email, Whatsapp or any social platform of your organization’s choice to carry on the conversation. Email communication is a formal way of communicating the information and other details while a chat app like Whatsapp or any other app allows for both formal as well as casual conversation. Studies have also shown that shorter communication cycle is useful to keep high engagement and sustain high morale in such difficult times. The longer the virus crisis lasts, the more important it will be to foster those connections with colleagues and teammates.
Connect with customers, clients, members and your office pals whom you usually see and talk to when you are in the office. They won’t pay you a visit, but they need to be updated about whatever is happening at their end. Even though you are working from home, you would be just as productive as you were, according to the industry in which you are working, but only that everyone would be scattered and less visible. If you are in a business and your face-to-face conferences or meetings have got canceled or your production lines are being temporarily suspended, let your associates know about it, send frequent status updates and check in every few days so that they know that you have not forgotten them. And take steps to get your teams ready, who are working from home.
If the current lockdown situation has got you to cancel any of your conferences or workshops, the best solution would be to move some of the content online rather than postponing them for an indefinite period of time. The members who had planned to attend your conference can get access to webinars and online group seminars. Presenters can interact and communicate with virtual participants and open a discussion forum where participants can chat with one another. Of course, it won’t be the same as a face-to-face conference but going the online way can partially bridge the gap until your rescheduled event happens. It can also keep people amped up for the topic and your organization until things return to normalcy.
Remember that it is challenging to structure your typical workday in a quarantine situation and needs empathy, consideration, and situational leadership from a manager to man his team from remote locations. Heightened insecurity, ambiguous facts and concerns, sense of dislocation from the team, new and pressurized conditions of working from home and for home makes the job of your worker even more difficult. In such times, the role of a manager to make things simplified and adaptable takes a pivotal space.
However, keeping the safety concern first, there are some practical and creative ways, which can stamp out loneliness and mitigate ‘emotional distancing’ during these days of work from home, such as:
Reset your expectations of how work gets done across individual locations. Work standardization and synchronization is largely difficult and needs more adaptability and flexibility from your end.
Schedule a lunch break with your office friend or colleague over a video call. It sounds funny but these funny moments will stand tall in bringing the entire team together in such times
Get your team together daily for a catch-up session to know the updates. Even if there are no updates, try to communicate and share as much to avoid information vacuum and uncertainty. You might want to schedule a team huddle each day at the start or the end of the day, ideally on video call.
Start a video call 5 minutes before to get conversational with attendees and checking on their wellbeing. That your team is no longer sharing the physical space; you cannot hold these icebreaker conversations at their desk. This act can reduce emotional isolation and foster feelings of oneness and mutual care.
Be considerate to those who may not have perfected the ways of using video conferencing facility. Focus on sharing quick 10-minute handholding lessons to simplify and reinforce the usage of new technology.
Assign buddies and coaches to ease the pressure of fitting into the new normal. This shared style of leadership will cultivate mutual support, engagement and productivity.
Adapting yourself to the new operating mode of work from home can be slightly difficult, especially if your entire family is also working or your children are in the study from home mode along with you. You may need to find out a small yet peaceful and silent working zone. Figure out ways to equally share your Internet capacity and devices with each other to fulfill each other’s deliverables of the day. You will find that you would invest and rejoice in more family time than you must have ever had in decades.
Humans are social animals who long to belong. Create these safety nets for your team members and convey genuine concern towards their wellbeing. Allow them to perform and contribute without being overtly supervised, marginalized or compromised in times of utmost insecurity.
Covid-19 has disrupted the way of life but not the purpose of life! Kindness, empathy and hope will keep all of us reaching to our safe destination soon.
“We shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome this someday”
Also read: Ten Commandments to stay happy at work