Before the term “social distancing” took over headlines, successful virtual teams knew how to stay connected while working from home. Still, whether your remote workers are missing coworker happy hours or weekly yoga class, 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 world 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 a crisis like the 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 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.
Social distancing is defined as, “deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness.” This means staying at least 6 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.
How to stay connected while working from home
For those working remotely right now, it’s the perfect time to get creative with social interactions and help one another stay connected while working from home. Here are three ways to foster social engagement, while also improving your well-being.
1. Increase virtual communication outside of work
Remote workers are likely already stuck behind a computer screen all day while working from home, so encourage them to take things digital with friends too. That monthly book club meeting they were going to cancel, dinner with neighbors or movie night with friends can all be done virtually. You can order takeout from your favorite local restaurant and binge-watch a favorite show with friends on Netflix Party or use FaceTime for human connection. For more human interaction at work, suggest 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 are many resources and best practices for remote employees — like these 10 hard-earned tips for working from home — which include creating designated workspaces and maintaining routines. With a little advice and support, you and your virtual teams just might find new efficiencies to adopt into daily routines.
3. Step outside and social distance
Physical distancing doesn’t mean you can’t get fresh air — people can still avoid crowds while going for a walk. It’s important to break up workdays with a quick walk around the block, lunch in the backyard or a home workout on the lawn. Even 15 minutes spent outside can brighten your day and boost your mood.
While it’s important to adhere to CDC guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic by physically distancing ourselves, it’s not the time to lose sight of a crucial part of our well-being — social connection.