Social Distancing Does Not Mean Social Isolation

Social distancing, physical distancing, and any other known form of the term has dropped many of us into the unchartered territory of the virtual workplace and working from home. After the novelty of working in your PJ’s and not having a commute wears off, it may become unsettling and frustrating.

We’ve all taken for granted the countless social interactions we experience at the office that meets our need for connecting with others. Before quarantine mandates were put into effect from Coronavirus, our social needs were met whenever we wanted to interact with another person, but now working remotely, you may feel like there is something to be desired.

If you feel lonely and isolated, don’t beat yourself up. Uncertainty and stress are normal when daily workflows and practices that were second nature are now slow and cumbersome due to suddenly deconstructing and decentralizing processes. People have a need for social interaction, and a need for certainty, so stress and adjustment is ordinary and to be expected.

Many folks feel like they’re mourning their regular routines. Grieving what were once commonplace practices, like popping into Starbucks to pick up coffee and a scone while chatting with the cashier who knew your name. The average interaction was once commonplace, whereas now it is cherished.

In many organizations, it’s not uncommon to hug coworkers, shake hands, break a cookie in half and share it, or lean in close together to review a computer screen. Those second-nature practices may feel nostalgic at this point, and the new normal feels scary and weird, with lingering uncertainty about going back to normal.

Big Compass’s purpose has always been to build connections in a disconnected world.

It’s our unique purpose, and we’ve focused on building meaningful and substantial connections with our partners, customers, and staff for years, all while remaining decentralized.

We’ve discovered that these relationships are instrumental in reducing the impact of social isolation in the face of a remote workplace.

Here are a few of our carefully honed strategies on overcoming social isolation:

  1. Deliberately work on nurturing strong connections. Focus on building and deepening connections every single day. At Big Compass, 20% of our day is spent making meaningful connections. Use tools like Slack and Zoom to promote a team environment and a shared purpose.
  2. Over-communicate. This pandemic affects everybody at various levels. If we’re not at risk, we all know somebody who is. Address how coronavirus affects your people personally and professionally. Recognize that folks are feeling disrupted, lost and vulnerable, and then normalize it. Listen, listen, and listen more. Then, put a focus on maintaining the same, or increased level of communication that you had before social distancing rules.
  3. Minimize feelings of helplessness and instill a sense of direction by establishing concrete goals and objectives to create a sense of purpose. Even in the worst tragedies, we all do better when we have a task, no matter how small.
  4. Celebrate all magnitudes of shared achievements to foster connection and momentum even if it feels like micromanaging. Those “too detailed” moments may be appreciated by those feeling isolated.
  5. Accept the situation and then give it legs. Acknowledge that people are physically secluded for now, but that doesn’t mean that business or relationships stop. Physical interactions may not be possible, but the common denominator of coronavirus may present new opportunities to connect with others at a deeper level.
  6. Be Flexible. Big Compass has learned that people who thrive in a dynamic work environment, one that requires laser-focus and an ability to go with the flow, over-deliver when times are tough. Especially when given autonomy and flexibility to deliver results.

Social, or physical, distancing does not disrupt Big Compass and our ability to deliver for our clients. The company was built on remote contributors and continues to rely on the perseverance of the Big Compass team to create connections every day despite the lack of physical interaction. Furthermore, we do not yet know what is on the other side of this pandemic. Could remote work become the new norm? Trends before the pandemic indicate that the answer is a resounding “yes”, and this could be the event that tips the scales. It is the organizations who can adapt and thrive in this environment that will flourish.

More than ever now is the time to connect virtually, connect often, and wash your hands!

Aaron’s passion for technology drives him to find innovative ways to help advance organizations through technology.