As much as we all want to do our part to fight COVID-19, let’s be honest: it’s one of the biggest challenges our country has faced. The concerns surrounding the virus, the economy, and our businesses are real and understandable. There’s also another factor to consider: the human factor. How is COVID-19 impacting us as human beings? Everyone is missing interacting with other people outside of our families. We all crave talking to people in person and engaging in fun activities, meeting at a table, solving problems together, joking around, shaking hands, and many other things we may have taken for granted before March. It’s evident how hard social distancing is – just go to any park right now! They’re all full of people just walking, waving, and smiling at one another. We can’t help ourselves – we want to be with people.

History shows us we’ve been social creatures from the beginning. There were reasons to gather in ancient times – staying together meant survival. Today, we find efficiencies in life by relying on each other. We work in teams to accomplish goals. We also know there are physiological benefits to socialization. Endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin – feel-good chemicals – are released in our brains to create feelings of happiness and joy when we socialize. All in all, it makes most of us feel pretty good to be part of something greater than ourselves. We love sharing experiences with other humans. We have come to rely on these chemical releases and dependencies of interacting with one another, and in this time of social distancing, we are not feeding that part of ourselves.

We have built working relationships with our customers, employees, teammates, and vendors, and we all have personal relationships we’d like to maintain. These important relationships are being put to the test right now. We’re all in a long-distance relationship with one another, and we know how hard those are to maintain and foster! In these times of isolation, it’s imperative we pay attention to the social, human element of ourselves and consider the risks of not connecting. Our physical and mental health can deteriorate as we maintain social distancing over long periods of time. And while the benefits of social distancing far outweigh the risks, we must focus on how to keep our relationships strong and supportive while doing what we can to fight this virus.

There’s a great quote from an unknown source that’s been floating around the internet lately: “You are not working from home; you are at home during a crisis, trying to work.” It’s helpful to remember! As you continue to move through this new way of working, please remember the importance of connecting and supporting each other. When we come back together, we want our relationships to be as strong as ever.           

Here are some suggestions for how to maintain relationships with your team and friends as you practice social distancing.

Repeatable Social Distancing Practices

  • Continue reaching out to each other to check in.
  • Use video when possible. Smiles are contagious!
  • Find small, specific ways to help others.
  • Take walks outside with one another, staying six feet apart.
  • Hold virtual happy hours.
  • Set small, mental health-related goals for the team each week.
  • Send an inspirational quote to the team.
  • Schedule a virtual team lunch via Zoom.
  • Send a virtual greeting card with an uplifting message.
  • Send an email listing some gratitude you have in this time of uncertainty. Sharing can be uplifting.
  • Send a voice memo via text instead of written text to infuse energy into the delivery.
  • Spontaneously call an employee and tell them to take a 15-minute break away from their desk.
  • Keep up with recognition. Recognize someone on staff once a week via email or through recorded video highlighting the accomplishment.

Fun One-Offs With Your Team

  • Create a physical challenge across the team to get people moving – (how long can they hold a plank, how many push-ups in 60 seconds, etc.)
  • Find phones apps to play games and feed the competitive side of your team while having fun (Houseparty is an app for multiple people to join via camera; it also has embedded games for groups.)
  • Share playlists to infuse working from home with fun music.
  • Have a once-a-week, company-wide “sharing time” with the topic changing each week (examples: picture of family pet, TV shows people are watching, DIY projects, books to read, recipes, etc.)
  • Order a pizza (or some other lunch option) for someone working at home.
  • Send flowers, a cookie bouquet, or some small gift off Amazon to someone working from home.