Isn’t it interesting that as we settle into the social distancing routine, we’re mastering creative ways to work around the system? Humans are social creatures, so it’s only natural for us to seek loopholes to get closer together. While we can’t offer handshakes or hugs, we have identified new ways to maintain some form of intimacy with people outside our homes.
The spectrum ranges from attending virtual business meetings while occasionally flashing colorful pajama bottoms to leaving cheerful chalk messages for neighbors in their driveways. Both count on the connection continuum. We don’t want to lose that authentic, personal touch we’re missing so much right now. And if you think about it, our yearning for connection extends in a surprisingly consistent way whether it is between colleagues or siblings, work-friends or neighbors. That’s why these little moments of connection and delight can be so powerful now.
On the homefront, families are finding ways to get together — doing curbside or backyard visits, while maintaining touch-free social distancing, of course. To keep the family entertained during spring break, my brother created an obstacle course in his backyard. His kids competed against themselves for their own PRs and then raced against their parents in a mini family olympics — and they filmed it! The best part for me? My brother came over to my house with my nieces and nephew and stood at the curb so we could talk about their obstacle course in person, albeit at a distance.
Similarly, many companies are looking beyond the (now) standard methods of remote collaboration — aiming to support employees’ whole lives, not just work-lives. Tools like Zoom video conferencing and Slack messaging keep us connected to coworkers day in and day out, whether we’re meeting to talk business or share casual jokes. But these tend to stop short of providing personal support of the more warm-and-fuzzy variety.
Obviously, employers can’t manufacture meaningful connections out of thin air for people during the COVID-19 outbreak any more successfully than they could before. That’s not an employer's “job.” But I believe that employers are more than ever responsible for helping employees feel cared for within the confines of their new normal to help curb the loneliness and sense of isolation that naturally occurs as we’re sheltering at home. Turning our work colleagues into a virtual community of caring as well as a much needed source of fun is a relatively easy way to expand our emotional worlds while staying put.
Necessity is the mother of invention. And while from the very beginning, I created Grokker as a wellbeing resource for people to be transformed through connection, I’m watching our clients invent new, fun ways I had never imagined of using our platform to keep their employees engaged and connected to each other while working from home — or even while furloughed.
One company has launched a “Social Distancing Challenge,” in which participants share their daily at-home wellbeing activities by posting photos with captions of themselves with their family members working out, doing yoga, or cooking together. Another is running a “Healthy at Home” initiative that provides employees with resources to help them create and share a variety of home-based routines to feel their best. Yet another is hosting a daily 5 ingredient in under 30 minutes healthy dinner recipe challenge, while another has group Mindfulness Moments scheduled at set times during the week where they watch stress reduction and resiliency training videos together and discuss how they are feeling before and after the video plays. I am inspired by these and so many other creative acts of corporate caring.
At Grokker this week, we sent a home delivery of fresh baked cookies to each of our employees just to let them know we were thinking of them, and wanted them to have a little comfort food within reach. It was a small gesture, but an important one that said, we see you and we care. Because that is what our employees need more than ever, to be seen and to feel cared for.
These efforts help put a more personal and positive face on a difficult time when we can’t depend on our usual social outlets. Kids can’t invite their friends over to watch movies or even meet at the park, and adults aren’t going out with friends for dinner and drinks — it’s hard on everybody. So when employers can help individual employees and their families make the best of a challenging situation, it’s a win-win that can make a big difference on an employee’s experience during this strange, stressful time.