I do not think anyone saw this one coming.  A pandemic so impactful that our governments needed to call a state of emergency and mandatory self-quarantining.  It is impressive to see how many companies quickly adapted to having an entire workforce, in some cases, work remotely from home and how quickly that workforce adapted to sharing their home life with work.  Many who were fortunate enough to keep working during this time, were met with the new reality of not only working from home but having to manage homelife which included their children’s continuing education.  The lines between work and home blurred very quickly, which may have led to higher stress levels and in other cases loneliness.

As we pass the 4-month mark of quarantine however, we are discovering some clear advantages to working remotely full time.  Some include, time saving on travel to and from work, no child transportation to school, ability to focus much more (and maybe too much) on work deliverables, lots of family time and maybe even some opportunities to clean up around the house and garden.  We have missed our friends and family that we have not been able to see, so the word “virtual” seems to have taken on new meaning to help us keep connected during a time that is keeping us apart.

Let’s highlight some of the key ideas we can all take advantage of during our new normal because evidence is telling us the normal before COVID-19 is a thing of the past.  Let’s reconcile ourselves with that and move on to the brighter future!

  1. Stay social while virtual:  Human connection is so important for so many reasons, whether we are talking about work or life.  With all the technology we have today from Facetime to Google Duo and Zoom, there are so many ways to see family and friends face to face while staying safe.  Plan virtual meetings and turn on the camera, regardless if you decided not to comb your hair today or if you are still in your pajamas!  Connect with your parents and grandparents in your life with new technology.  Show them how to get connected so they can reach out and avoid feeling isolated.  In some cases, our elderly are living alone or are isolated in homes.  Keep in touch often.
  2. New routines, new habits: Accept it, the new normal is not going anywhere so take a look at your routines and habits and adjust or create some new ones altogether!  Life is different, so assess what can still work and remove habits that don’t.  The routine of going into work and seeing and meeting with all your team members just can’t happen right now, so what new processes are you putting in as a leader to stay connected and to encourage them to stay connected with each other.  Are you adding more touchpoints throughout the week?  Should you? Maybe exercising in the morning has become your new normal in the place of travel.  There are lots of great youtubers that offer everything from High Impact Workouts to Yoga.
  3. Agree on ways of working: When work life changes, communication has to change also.  But how about the way we work together to accomplish tasks?  That will go virtual as well.  Group projects are no longer about booking a room and meeting for an hour face to face.  New technology and tools have come into play to ensure projects remain focussed and on time.  “Using project plans to track your work together and delegating tasks can be a great way to ensure everyone has access to the plan and deliverables stay visible.  Create a consistent schedule cadence to keep in touch with deadlines to review at each meeting.  Pick someone to facilitate and someone else to take notes.  Using OneNote or Teams to collaborate together is also ideal”, says Teresa Gabriele, Lead Coach with Sourc3dCareers.
  4. Building trust when people can’t see you: ubiquity.acm.org states “Professor Mehrabian combined the statistical results of the two studies and came up with the now famous—and famously misused—rule that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal. The non-verbal component was made up of body language (55 percent) and tone of voice (38 percent).” More than half of communication is body language so how could our new virtual world not be impacted when you take the face to face meeting out of the equation.  How are you actively building trust in your communication now that is it over the phone (or the preference is not to show my face on video because I did not put my makeup on this morning)?  Video conference has become so especially important in company communication in order to continue our trust building, whether they be with colleagues we have never worked with or new employees that were hired at the onset of the pandemic. Turn on your video and continue to collaborate as always.

All of us use virtual tools at different levels of competencies.  It has quickly (more like lightning speed) become a staple in our new world.  No matter the age, whether a student working on an assignment, a leader connecting with their team or a senior connecting with their grandkids, taking full advantage of the virtual and digital tools available to us is the best way to stay connected in a time when physical human connection is not possible. We hope one day soon, we can see our loved ones as well as our colleagues face to face and more often, but until then, stay connected, learn what you can about the new virtual normal and look forward to an exciting new future.