As I, and many others, have been reiterating over the last few weeks: the world as we know it is fundamentally different now, and who knows what kind of normalcy we’ll return to after all of this is over. While I’ve been thinking about where we are now and what people are looking for in this time of crisis, I took to heart some of the things my brother and I talked about the other day over some drinks. I’ll spare you every word of the conversation, but one of the more striking things he said to me was about how he’s been trying to use his past as a means to connect with and grow how he builds his present and future. That’s an idea that’s been brewing in me as well, and I wanted to share my sentiments on that with you in regards to how this notion can help you better your organization.
First of all, there’s no question that our ability to connect virtually has become stronger than ever. From WebEx to Zoom, to Skype, to FaceTimes, if anyone has a need to reach someone over the web, it’s possible through dozens of different channels. With this new norm of connection and communication, many of us have had to adopt new manners of behavior: be it learning how to decipher someone’s tone via a chat message or waiting a few seconds between someone speaking on a meeting so as not to accidentally interrupt another. Furthermore, as we spend more and more days practicing social-distancing measures in our houses, our need to reach out and connect with others grows greater and greater. Be it personal or professional, as humans, we seek a way to connect with others. Take a look at Steyer Content — just one of many companies instituting virtual happy hours. Kate Walton, CEO, and owner of Steyer Content, says “What it comes down to, is connections. In times of uncertainty, we want to know we’re not alone.” Walton also says “the trick is not to force the connections, but rather give permission to be creative and see where employees take it.”
This unfolding of new connective means is wonderful, but one day (hopefully soon), our present situation will be a thing of the past as businesses reopen and folks return to the office. With that in mind, I think again about what my brother spoke of: using what we have experienced to build and shape our future. Just because we won’t be quarantined anymore, doesn’t mean our need for connection dissipates. So what does connection look like when we go back to work?
We have a choice to make. No one thought this quarantine was going to happen now; it’s been unprecedented and it’s changed us completely. So if we go back to the workplace taking connections for granted, what have we learned? Our time now should serve as a reminder that we should be excited and looking for ways to grow connections and better our relationships with each other.
The question that leaders of organizations and the people in them should be asking is: what are tools we can utilize to foster better connections? And I don’t just mean the obvious ones such as the systems we have here at Profile, or articles, or seminars, but what are things that were already in place that could be improved? People love virtual happy hours now, but that happy hour your office used to hold on Fridays that no one would show up to, are you going to go to that when things reopen? Are you willing to get up another thirty minutes earlier to attend your building's complimentary coffee and conversations with your other coworkers? With the ability to have employees join meetings via Zoom or Skype, can your organization be more flexible in letting people work from home, allowing them less of a cumbersome commute? Can that be a means to reduce travel among the company to keep employees with their families more often? Things are still difficult and strange now, yet our need for connection has propelled us into widening our ability in connecting. The future is coming and our need for connection is here to stay: are you going to move towards progress or fall behind?