It seems in this unprecedented year of 2020, the world may be more disconnected than ever. Separate from one another- our friends, our world, our work communities- all while constantly dealing with the hyper vigilance that comes with the threat of COVID-19, is a heavy burden to carry alone. We shouldn’t have to. As a communal species, it is absolutely necessary that we stay connected.
Being disconnected from our coworkers can create many issues. Not only does it limit the communication between employees and supervisors – which limits guidance, growth-inducing accountability, advice, support, and professional discussions– but it removes one of our main sources of social interaction. Fostering this connection may prove difficult under the current circumstances, but doing so will reap benefits on a mental, emotional, physical, and professional level for you and your employees.
How to Stay Connected
Although the Corona Virus seems inescapable, our modern world provides us with the technological advantages to circumvent the isolation this pandemic has caused. It is one advantage of 2020 – being able to provide support even when proximity is not an option. Yes, virtual meetings are essential to stay up-to-date on the needs of your organization. It is also essential for the needs of your employees in their personal lives. Though it may seem that our society separates the personal and the professional, they are intrinsically connected. How someone feels in their life outside of work, will immediately affect their performance while on the clock. Offering those moments of connection that your employees receive in office, like coffee breaks and recess conversations, will likely influence greater contentment in their working hours. Below is a list of several suggestions that can provide opportunities for your employees and teachers to connect.
Virtual Coffee Hours: You can offer to open a Zoom meeting room that opens earlier and is separate from your teachers’ virtual classroom. This can emulate the time and space your teachers had to converse with one another prior to meeting their students. It may only last a few minutes, but can provide that ritualistic human connection you and your teachers may be craving.
Virtual Lunches: Just like coffee before work, lunch during work may have been a daily necessity for your employees. You can create a permanent Zoom room during lunch hours that allows your employees to mimic the lunch hour so, if they choose, they do not have to eat alone.
Virtual Meet-Ups Outside of Work: Get creative! Connection just before, during, or right after working hours is a daily practice normal to a “normal life,” but may still feel like part of work. Creating hours in the evenings or weekends for your coworkers to connect in a way that encourages non work-related conversation will benefit their emotional and mental health. Some examples include: Virtual Happy Hours, Virtual Game Nights, Virtual Dinners.
Encourage Virtual, Communal health: Just as you care about your employees’ life at work, it is important you show that you care about their overall well being. They, and you, are humans first, after all, employees second. Providing opportunities for your staff to stay healthy by investing in virtual health programs will give them support to survive and thrive personally and, consequently, professionally. When we feel supported, we are better able to give support to others, such as students, or coworkers. You can find independent contractors, or maybe even someone in your organization, who can guide weekly or biweekly exercise, yoga, or meditation classes where your employees can ground and connect.
Weekly Prompts or Questions: Since we spend a lot of time on Zoom, seeing one another through a computer can feel exhausting. Therefore, giving some opportunities for connection without face-to-face interaction may also prove beneficial. You can use chatrooms to ask a question a week, from fun to deep, where your employees can get creative or introspective. Self-expression and creativity are essential to our personal and working lives, so encouraging your employees to foster this within themselves will benefit every area of their lives. Here are some example questions: What is something you are grateful for during these times? What is the most difficult thing about 2020? If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why? What color represents you? Are you a dog or a cat person? Why?
Theme Days and Company Contests: Just because school isn’t at school, doesn’t mean school traditions have to stop! You can still have “crazy sweater days,” or dress-up for halloween, or have a funniest animal video contest! Adding in an incentive in the form of a prize may just give that last bit of encouragement for your employees to take place in the fun activity! Plus, it gives your employees an opportunity to share and see one another’s personalities
Involve the Family: Working from home often means employees are juggling more than if they were actually at work. They may have kids or partners around, even pets. Offering opportunities for the entire family will show support for this new paradigm your staff are working in. This could look like support hours for teachers to discuss work/life balance, or virtual meet-ups between your teachers children, or an online trivia where the whole family shows up!
Overall, life is different and we have to adapt. But this doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice everything that keeps us going in our lives. We must remember that just because we are working from home, we don’t have to feel alone. The more we feel connected, the more we will encourage connection around us, particularly from the students we are teaching. Just as it is essential to stay connected to be able to provide that necessary connection, it is important that we set an example for our staff and their students, that they don’t have to do it by themselves – an idea our society likes to perpetrate that only leads to burnout.
McGrath's SUCCEED with TRUE SPEAK is a program that teaches heart-centered communication and leadership – an authentic quality that is imperative for these difficult times. You will learn how to boost employee morale, effect systemic change, and facilitate interactions between employees, all beyond the classroom. McGrath's SUCCEED with TRUE SPEAK will help you transcend the barriers of geography and separation so you may connect even when everything feels disconnected.