June 18, 2020

When Businesses need to Social Distance, how can we stay connected?

We are social beings, humans in North America like to huddle and are used to physical contact personally and in business. We hug our friends and family regularly and as a salutation. We shake hands for business dealings, often working the room with that handshake over and over. In some cases, we embrace co-workers with a hug for support or in celebration. It evokes approachability, closeness, builds relationships, and in business instills commitment and confidence. How many times have you heard “we shook over it so it’s a deal”, or offered a hug, a hand, an ear during times of stress as a source of comfort? Common connections like this have generally been vital responses in times of high stress.

You know it…we’re all in a time of high stress! And are now being asked to restrain from the norm, exercise social distancing to protect each other. Of course, we want to and need to comply with the recommendation of keeping your distance as that is how viruses spread. Schools are closed, work-from-home practices are in place, and large social and business gatherings are canceled. During times of social deprivation studies from the Center for the Science of Social Connection, say this can create more stress and illness. And there are other costs. An official mandate to socially distance and isolate may increase what psychologists call intergroup anxiety, the natural threat, and distrust people feel when interacting with and in new environments outside the morn. Changing the routine.

At Levvel we specialize in Change Consulting. This is a mandated, unprecedented and uncertain global CHANGE! While social distancing and isolation are in effect, there are things everyone can do to mitigate their risk.

In your personal lives, now is the time to reach out to friends and family and connect with them however you can.

Let people know how much you care about them. While live human connection is best, a phone call, with a real voice, is better than text, and a video chat is better than a phone call.

In your business interaction let’s face it, we all still need to make a living. Fear of downsizing has been a reality for many for years and this just adds to that anxiety, so not unlike your personal contacts, keep in touch with business associates.

Huge business impact will be felt by this pandemic and the new social distancing measures. Events of more than 250 people are canceled, restaurants, gyms, churches, schools, play centers, entertainment hubs, transportation streams, and the list goes on, will undoubtedly lose revenue. Lacking a face-to-face doesn’t mean you can’t communicate. Purposeful communication is key, just as it is in the office. So set expectations for checking in remotely. We all know the technology tools are there for web conferencing, video chat, e-mails, and data file sharing, use them. Continue to foster a team environment.

As a leader who typically manages in a collective office setting here are some guidelines:

• Lay it all out by setting clear expectations for how often remote interactions will take place, and stick with it

• Establish clear lines of accountability with daily targets, and just as you would if they were in the same office space, check in regularly for brainstorming or listening

• Make it clear that the same metrics are being applied to the entire team

• Get a sense of what their environment is like so you can set expectations that work for them, i.e. they now have kids at home during the day so perhaps offsetting work hours

• Set recurring virtual team meetings with an attempt to accommodate all members schedules

• Encourage them to communicate independently with each other via messaging, e-mail, intranet, video tech, and on-line collaboration tools- creating virtual ‘water-cooler’ moments

• Recognize their work contributions

• Re-establish the company’s goals and targets and/or the project’s impact on the overarching goals

• Reinforce they are all part of a team, all in this together

• Be transparent by keeping everyone informed, up to date and involved

Bottom line…during social distancing, don’t be distant. Businesses need people to work to maintain sales, revenue, and targets. Staff need to feel relevant and not isolated from their co-workers, leaders, and friends at the office. Changes such as this require expert advice, measures in place and tools for continued progress. Contact Levvel Inc. to find out more. We’re all in this together.

Keep Calm & Levvel On.

~Cherene Kambeitz, Marketing & Communications Director – Levvel inc. Reach out to Connect@levvel.ca