Earlier this week and with a lot of courage I masked up and stepped into my friend’s home for a visit. After spending my entire pregnancy quarantined and then delivering a medically fragile baby, I’d been conditioned to fear in-person human interaction. “Do you want to sit down?” my friend asked. Though her house was immaculately clean, I contemplated her question wondering if it was ‘safe’. Through my fear-created, germ-detecting goggles, I nervously accepted. As the minutes passed, my anxiety continued to decrease. I sat there appreciating the change in scenery, my friend’s laugh, the smile lines around her eyes, her willingness to wear a mask in her home just to make me feel comfortable. I was so excited to be there and we had so much to talk about. I kept having to remind myself to slow down as I spoke. We continued to interrupt each other as one topic lead into the next for almost two hours. As I sat there and took it all in, I was shocked to realize it had been an entire year since I’d been in anyone else’s home.
When COVID started in early 2020, it changed everyone’s day-to-day activities across the world. During such uncertain times, it was comforting to know we all had something that connected us, but regardless of the unplanned connection, for many, it was a hard adjustment.
In records management, most of us are accustomed to working in a very small team, and in some cases, completely solo. Pallets, boxes, and rows of records keep many of us busy, and if that’s not your world, you’re like me and usually in front of a computer screen.
For some, the location of your job has likely changed, and the occasional face-to-face interaction has been replaced with kids working through the challenges of homeschooling, your dog snoring next to you as you join a conference call or the UPS driver as they deliver yet another package. The annual conferences we all look forward to, have been canceled and most of our local in-person meetings have been converted to virtual platforms. If you weren’t tech-savvy before, you’ve since had a crash course and may even label yourself as an expert at this point.
As I sit here in my home office at 5:00 a.m., illuminated by my computer screen as the rest of the house lays asleep, I must remind myself that it’s not just business as usual. Our world has changed and there are a couple of things we should all remember when interacting with each other during such a unique time.
Offer Compassion. In life, everyone has unique bumps in the road, but throw in the challenges of a pandemic, and we’ve all got a laundry list of challenges we’re dealing with. From the loss of a job, homeschooling, missing our friends and family, technology challenges, the stress of knowing our in-office projects are just stacking up. Give yourself and others grace. Practice compassion.
Check in Often. Take a couple of minutes a day and check in with co-workers, friends, and family. Even those superstars who seem like they’ve been unaffected by all the changes with COVID, they need that quick check-in too. Make it a goal to check in with someone new every day.
Consider Calling. When emojis and GIFs aren’t enough and to avoid misinterpretation, pick up the phone. In a world that lacks human connection, a video chat or an old-fashioned phone call allows us to collaborate more easily and efficiently, clear up confusion, convey our tone and intent, and foster healthy relationships.
Over Communicate. Whether via phone, text, or email. Be detailed when explaining your plans, intentions, next steps, feelings, etc. When you don’t have the luxury of face-to-face interaction, remember how important your words are. Spend the extra time making sure you are clear and haven’t forgotten any details. Add that extra touch to an email or instant message to clarify your intent .
Get Creative. You can be safe and still interact with those around you, it just takes some creativity. Organize a window visit or parking lot “hello”. Set up lawn chairs at a park and safely catch up with your co-workers. Gather dollar store items and create a sunshine box for a friend who needs encouragement. Pull out the finger paint and let your toddler decorate a canvas for your elderly neighbor.
Maintain Boundaries. While spending a lot of time at home and balancing many hats, it’s easy to blur the lines between personal and professional time. Be intentional about setting healthy boundaries and creating a schedule that not only holds you accountable professionally, but personally as well. Be respectful of your co-workers’ time and be realistic about response time. In return, expect to uphold the same boundaries.
Stay Positive. Were you moving inventory right before COVID and are overwhelmed with the thought of resuming the project after six months out of the office? Gather your resources, take a breath, and again, get creative. Be flexible and stay positive. Tasks that took a couple of hours before may take longer now that so many people are working remotely. Despite the unforeseen effects of COVID, remember we’re all in this together.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I challenge you to practice the steps above. Already a pro? What things have you done to stay connected to your friends, family, and co-workers during COVID? Scroll down to the bottom of this page and leave your ideas in the reply section below.