3 ways to stay connected and not feel lonely by ‘bringing your human to work’ while working from home
What a difference a week makes.
A month ago we could never have predicted the state of the world today — a global pandemic, sports games with no spectators, schools (including those of all three of my kids) having moved to remote learning. The economy has dropped to levels not seen since the crash in 2008. Businesses are prohibiting unnecessary travel, gatherings of over 25 people, and — whenever possible — mandating that employees work from home.
In a country where, before last week, our number one health hazard was social isolation, we’re heading for a significant mental health crisis if we don’t support and educate the millions of people leaving their IRL social networks behind.
Employees who are used to getting that burst of oxytocin from their morning coffee with colleagues, lunches out, even meetings, and other obligations we used to (a few days ago) consider annoying, have to reorient. Suddenly we all need to figure out not only the technical parts of getting our jobs done from home, but how to stay connected and actually feel connected.
In other words, how not to be lonely.
So here’s the good news: You can bring your human to work even if you can’t go into the office. How? By honoring relationships.
I was on a work call yesterday and the woman I was talking to was — literally — being pulled by her child as we spoke. Say goodbye to our tidy compartments. These days, we have to honor all of our relationships. At the same time.
So if you’re lucky enough to sit in your home office with the door closed for a second, trying to get used to this “new normal,” consider all of your relationships — your colleagues, your boss, your team, your clients as well your family and friends. These relationships are your biggest resources, and your most valuable asset right now.
Start by asking yourself this one important question: Does your calendar reflect your values?
In the best of times, when left to our own devices, we’re often not connecting and our calendar doesn’t end up reflecting our values. We have to be intentional and plan for it. And given the current levels of stress and how WFH is the new norm for many of us, we have to be even more intentional so that our calendars do reflect our values.
Here are some ways to begin honoring relationships at work.
1. Connect on a human level
If you thought you used to be in a lot of meetings, hold on to your hat. We now need meetings more than ever. And we can use these meetings as an opportunity to check on with the people on your team and your colleagues. Get concrete about action items for shared support — a moment or two of meditation with your team, easy to cook recipes, ideas for wrangling restless kids, or caring for elderly parents who are even more at risk.
2. Keep your rituals in place, and add new ones
Every Friday, Knotch, a data-driven media content analysis company, has a 4:30 p.m. “Show and Tell” in the office. According to Garrison Gibbons, head of people, even though employees were working from home last Friday, their beloved ritual continued. The head of sales shared an iteration of a new product, an employee who had traveled to Africa shared photos, and two new employees were introduced. This week, given the levels of anxiety we’re all feeling, Garrison is adding “Ask Anda Anything” to address Anda Gansca, the CEO. This is a dedicated time for employees to ask questions of the founder and CEO. I love this because it’s aligned with one of Knotch’s values — transparency.
3. Have some fun
The online learning platform Udemy hosted a virtual pet happy hour, which also aligns with their value of being earnestly authentic. It’s ok to have some fun. So if you have a dog, why not introduce him to your colleagues? And the cat, too, if they are willing.
Who would have ever thought that going to work would feel like such a privilege? Well, it is. Being in one another’s presence is the greatest gift of all, and one we can continue to offer up and receive. We can bring our human to work, even when we can’t bring our human to work.
Erica Keswin is a bestselling author, internationally sought-after speaker, and founder of the Spaghetti Project, a roving ritual devoted to sharing the science and stories of relationships at work. She helps top-of-the-class businesses, organizations, and individuals improve their performance by honoring relationships in every context, always with an eye toward high-tech for human touch. Her book, “Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Sure-Fire Ways to Design a Workplace That’s Good for People, Great for Business, and Just Might Change the World” was published in 2018 by McGraw-Hill. Her next book, “Rituals Roadmap: The Human Way to Transform Everyday Routines Into Workplace Magic” will be published by McGraw-Hill in January, 2021.