Before the term social distancing took over headlines, successful virtual teams knew all about staying close while being apart. Still, whether you are missing coworker happy hours, skipping weekly yoga class or staying home in self-quarantine, there’s no doubt that social distancing has created an exceptional challenge for human beings.
We are all wired to be social, and in a word of social distancing, relationships may feel at risk and feelings of isolation are on the rise. In fact, a recent study by Cigna found that 61% of Americans said they are lonely and “remote workers are more likely than non-remote workers to always or sometimes feel alone.” But what does social distancing really mean?
In times of crisis, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing has been implemented to limit the world from social connection in order to physically separate ourselves from one another. With the current coronavirus outbreak, the hope is that this will potentially prevent exposure and possible transmission, to ultimately keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible. The problem: there’s a nuance between “social” distancing and “physical” distancing.
Physical distancing still leaves room for collaboration in virtual teams
Social distancing is defined as, “deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness.” This means staying at least six feet away from others. But it does not mean that human connections need to be done away with. Instead, it’s time to focus on physical distancing rather than social distancing.
Create human connection by copying successful virtual teams
For those of you working from home right now, it’s the perfect time to get creative with social interactions and help one another stay connected. Here are three ways to foster social engagement, while also improving your well-being:
1. Bring virtual team communication to friends
You’re likely already stuck behind a computer screen all day while working from home, so why not take things digital with your friends, too. That monthly book club meeting you were going to cancel, dinner with your neighbors or movie night with your friends can all be done virtually. Order take out from your favorite local restaurant and binge-watch your favorite show with your friends on Netflix Party or use FaceTime for human connection. If you’re looking for more human interaction at work, try a virtual lunch or coffee with a coworker.
2. Learn how successful virtual teams collaborate
For some employees, remote work is nothing new. Ask a friend at work or other full-time remote workers for tips and tricks on how to stay socially connected. There’s many resources and best practices for remote employees already out there — like these 10 hard-earned tips for working from home that include creating a designated workplace and maintaining a routine. With a little advice and support, you just might find new inspiration to adopt into your daily routine.
3. Step outside and social distance
Physical distancing doesn’t mean you can’t get fresh air — you can still avoid crowds while going for a walk. It’s important to break up your workday with a quick walk around the block, lunch in your backyard or a home workout on your lawn. Even 15 minutes spent outside can brighten your day and boost your mood.
While it’s important to adhere to CDC guidelines during times of crisis by physically distancing ourselves, it’s not the time to lose sight of a crucial part of our well-being — social connection.
Learn more about connecting employees and creating a community with our guide to employee engagement.