With constant changes around us, we've had to embrace our own adaptation skills for our daily routines. Being contained in a place that transformed itself from a cozy home to office, gym, online shopping plaza and movie theater, has not been an easy process and at some times feels like we cannot take it anymore. Technology has helped to stay working and “in touch” with loved ones and friends but the challenges of this type of connection are big.
As an Executive Coach working with leaders to improve things like recognition, delegation, assertiveness in meetings, empathy or engagement I often heard the frustration of connections with people being limited. I think that frustration compares to the one of a kid not being able to go out to play with his friends because of the weather, or the one of athletes not being able to go to the field and practice or play. How do I engage better with people if I only see people through a video conference connection and just for work? How do I cultivate friendships, or get to know someone better if we cannot go to have a couple of beers after work, have lunch together or go to the cafeteria?
I know what you are thinking, Guillermo is so late with this article! The problem is almost over. But the reality is that numerous companies have announced new policies to keep people working from home (it is cheaper), to have rotating schedules so offices will still look abandoned with just a few people working at a given time and to continue creating geographically dispersed teams to work on projects.
Believe me, when it comes to improving your emotional skills and leadership you cannot wait for things to go back to normal, as they say the new normal is…well new and different. Then consider these tips to proactively look for connection and nurturing relationships in these new times.
- Connect with no business purpose. We can replicate as much as we can the experience of going for a coffee, having a couple of beers at the bar or having lunch together by inviting people to do it remotely. Set a time, set an activity (like wine glass at hand required) and meet with a friend or friends to just chat. This is not a business meeting, it's “going out” to have some fun and get to know people better.
- Shared experiences. I have been enjoying how 2 of my daughters create and enjoy their “Bachelor Night”. They set a time, an activity (usually cooking dinner), a video conference connection and then each of them in their IPADs start a chapter of the reality show, every time one of them needs to do something with the cooking, they just pause the show at the same time, and when ready they count 1, 2, 3 and start it again at the same time. They manage this shared experience as if they are watching the show at one home. The same way we can invite a friend to go shopping or window shopping and have a shared online shopping experience or even visit an electronic museum or park through images.
- Get out of your busyness. A common problem I have heard from working at home is that some people are working more, the lines between work and social or family time got blurred or disappeared when the commuting and leaving the office went away. We are all busier than before, where did all that time spent in a car go? I think from time to time we need to remember what is important, and it is no secret that when in crisis, when in illness or profound despair; the most important is always our relationships with loved ones and friends. We should remember that more often to proactively create the spaces and replicate the experiences that distance, or new ways of working have created, because yes, you can make friends at work.