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Social Connecting and Physical Distancing

Let’s not confuse the two

Today, at least temporarily, we need to distance ourselves physically, but we should not be distancing ourselves socially or relationally.

Now is NOT the time to check out. We need to check IN – regularly – and show up. We are so fortunate to live in a modern age of technology that there are no excuses to be recluses! We take for granted that we can contact people whenever we have a thought to share.

The different ways we reach others often include:

  • Telephone calls
  • Conference calls
  • Video calls
  • Email
  • Texting – using phone messaging, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger
  • Social media
  • Websites – for providing and attaining information
  • Chat functions through websites & social media
  • Marco Polo – video version of text messaging

Being intentional about using these modes of communication during this time is a discipline when it’s easier to cocoon and check out.

The following suggestions for your organization can boost engagement and productivity while you’re all waiting for things to get back to normal.

Hold a daily touch-base virtual meeting or conference call

During a time of considerable uncertainty, simply hearing the voice or seeing the face of a co-worker may help to re-instill a sense of normalcy and purpose (i.e., out of sight, out of mind).  

It’s a great way to start or end the day with a discussion on current projects, issues, and, most importantly, just to see how everybody is handling the current environment. 

Checking in with clients

It’s a convenient time to let clients know how you are doing, but also to learn about the issues they are currently dealing with (and which may not be immediately apparent to the outside world).  

I don’t want to assume that working from home automatically represents a slowdown or shut-down, as it may be business as usual, albeit from home for many, but this may also be a time to discuss ideas as to how to enhance the relationship when everybody returns to the office.  

The shut-down could represent a much-needed reprieve for some and allow them more time to address tasks that might be given a lower priority when in the office.  

The next few suggestions play off that “why not now” mentality.

Procedure and Policy updates or annual revisions

Many times we say that policies and procedures are reviewed and updated annually, but often this isn’t the case. Much of the time, we view these as a lesser priority or something we’ll revisit when things “slow down.”  

Is it ever really slow? Maybe this is one of those times? While I don’t want to emphasize the mentality of doing this only when things are quiet, I’m stressing more so the intention of making the most of this time.  

Maybe the importance given to this exercise during current times ends up showing leaders that this practice is not to be overlooked and could represent a major difference between how a job is currently implemented and how it should or could be implemented.  

The exercise may also represent an opportunity for others to have a voice in the process and to present ideas for making current processes more efficient.

After-action reports

How many times do we move from one project to the other without ever talking about what went right or wrong, and what we can do differently with the next project?  

This seclusion may represent a time when we go back and look at recent projects to determine how we can get better at things like communication, working within a defined budget, using resources, beta testing, etc. I always saw these as a valuable but rarely used tool.

Idea swapping

Sometimes just by working (or even studying) in a different location, it can actually lead us to think differently as well.  

Maybe this is the first time many employees have worked from home, and the change of scenery has prompted said employees to think about things not typically contemplated in the office.  

Develop a forum or opportunity for these ideas to be shared.  

Conversely, for those who are home working close to numerous, restless individuals, understand that their creativity levels may be at their lowest right now.  

The person that usually has multiple ideas to contribute may be facing a creativity roadblock because they have left their comfort zone. If there is ever a time to extend grace, this may be it. 

Hotel Impossible

If there is one thing people are doing while they are stuck at home, it’s watching TV. It might be time to jointly, but remotely, share in a program that illustrates or enforces values the organization holds near and dear.  

I can’t tell you how many times I think of that show (Hotel Impossible) I binge-watched now, Anthony’s approach to his people and his business, and the extremes that make the show so memorable.  

Maybe employees can use a particular show as a talking point during their daily touch base meeting/call. Perhaps they can use it to bring to light similar issues occurring within their own organization. 

I love storytelling, but sometimes when I can’t recall the exact story, and I need to emphasize my point, I look to TV and movies – Hollywood may have already said it best. If you have a penchant for books, you could substitute collectively (but again, remotely) reading the same book and discussing its lessons during the meeting or call. 

Do more than “hang in there”

Be proactive. Use the technology to your advantage during this time. Checking in every day will keep a routine in place, promoting engagement and some sense of normalcy. Relationships can be strengthened by more interaction. When all the bans are lifted, we’ll all come back stronger and better than before.

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