“Social distancing” is a term that—until the year 2020—was unfamiliar to most.
Today it is the reality for most of the developed world. As governments are trying to flatten the curve, people have been left to bide their time by staying safe and isolating in their homes.
The world is currently running the biggest ever trial of remote work in history. This experience, while novel for some, has its downsides.
First and foremost, social distancing is isolating—it limits peoples movement and provides them with less opportunity to connect with others.
Cigna, an American insurance company, reported in 2019 that 61% of Americans over the age of 18 are lonely and that loneliness had increased since its 2018 study. This makes it even more important that the current need to reduce physical contact is accomplished without increasing loneliness. Ignoring people’s need for connection at this time is a dangerous path to walk.
Cyberpsychology researcher Jocelyn Brewer told the ABC this month that technology can be helpful to maintain connections. Instead of looking at what’s falling apart, she says that people need to ask: What can we build out of the ruins? “The whole phoenix rising idea can be applicable here, and can be quite positive.”
Creative Ways to Stay Connected
Any organisation (be it a business, school or community group) should take the opportunity to connect its members and provide opportunities to interact with their peers at this time. Here are some creative ways for keeping your people connected.
Encourage Online Seminar Attendance
One of the positives that have come out of this crisis is the proliferation of online seminars and workshops…most of which are free! Ranging from mindfulness and meditation to navigating relationships during quarantine and how to be creative in isolation, there are truly a plethora of options. Here are some of our favourites:
- Creative Mornings (“field trips” include everything from deep work to writing a book)
- Second Home (weekly masterclass sessions on creativity, money management, etc.)
- Glow Up Gang (seminars on resumes, relationships, cooking, and more!)
Encourage your team members to attend these seminars in pairs or small groups, and then schedule a 15-30 minute chat afterwards to share what they learned, what they liked about the seminar, what surprised them, etc. By participating in these educational workshops together, your people will feel more connected, that they have someone to keep them accountable to implement new skills learned, and that they’re putting their time to good use!
Create a Challenge
Whether you use a TikTok dance challenge to spur some healthy interdepartmental competition, a workout challenge to keep your team healthy, a mindfulness and meditation challenge to keep them centred, or an arts and crafts-related challenge to keep them creative, having fun, lighthearted challenges offered to everyone can not only bring people a sense of community, it can encourage them to try new things, together!
Have a Virtual Happy Hour
Winding down is just as important as getting our work done during this time. Encourage teams to interact in not just a professional, but in a personal manner as well by suggesting weekly virtual happy hours where individuals can destress and share what they’re doing when they’re not logged on. You can also incorporate online games like trivia, Jackbox or Codenames into your virtual happy hours to mix things ups!
Sign Up for Virtual Mentoring
Seeing as work is no longer a place, but a state of mind, leaders can ensure they’re supporting their people to reduce loneliness while encouraging collaboration, productivity and purpose with a virtual mentoring program. Your people will be paired with a fine-tuned algorithm, communicate, upload tasks and events, set goals, access resources, and keep track of their progress directly in one easy-to-access platform. Ensure your team remains supported while building a sense of belonging and continuity that brings the watercooler to the remote office.
It’s not the method you choose to implement, but the simple act of ensuring your people are connected that counts. Now is a more important time than ever to bring people closer while still keeping them at least 1.5 metres apart.