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How social distancing has brought our team closer together





Posted by Justine Woolf on 23 March 2020

How social distancing has brought our team closer together

Employee communications | Flexible working | Culture | Covid-19

As we embark on this rather surreal time isolating ourselves at home (for those of us who aren’t on the front line, and thank you to all of you who are for helping keeping us all going), I’ve been reflecting this last weekend on how social distancing has been anything but.

I don’t mean I’ve been flouting the recommendations - quite the opposite, as someone classed as vulnerable, I’ve been trying hard to shield myself. What I mean is in the midst of the uncertainty, I’ve never felt so connected to my team. 

I usually spend my week rushing from meeting to meeting, squeezing in phone calls and 1:1’s when they don’t get postponed or rescheduled, but like most managers, being a leader of a team is rarely the main role. In fact, in most organisations, it’s the role plus a team on top. Ill-considered job design or poor organisational structures can often mean that truly engaging with your team can be challenging.

No wonder then that many organisations find it hard to create trusted two-way communication. Messages from the top down, or from employees up, often get lost in the management sponge layer. Even when senior leaders are seen to lead from the front, sharing their messages openly with employees either in person or in written form, there will always be questions or different interpretations of what was relayed, and often managers are expected to understand or pre-empt potential questions they are required to field.

But when the world is turned on its head, and the week, month and even year I had previously been working toward has about turned at pace, I have found myself engaging with others significantly more than normal. Instead of socially distancing, whilst this might be true physically, we have not been distancing socially.

As the whole team is now required to work remotely, we set up daily calls to check in on each other and update on the fast-changing news. We set up a team WhatsApp group which is being used outside of work to connect the team in a light-hearted way and provide peer support. We’ve tested every app going to video call (the verdict is that Houseparty and Zoom are winning out on the favourites front) And we’ve been talking, like we’ve never spoken before - regularly, openly and honestly.

In these unprecedented times where the future of our livelihoods is unknown and the uncertainty surrounding this horrific virus, the one positive to come out of a situation that can be frightening and isolating in practice, is the ability to use technology to connect and engage with others regularly and meaningfully.

Working from home can be isolating at the best of times - the trick to making it work well is to create a community that connects people even if they can’t physically see each other. 

So, my plea is to make sure that whilst we are remote working, we aren’t remote from each other. Whilst we practice social distancing, we aren’t distant socially from each other. Use the tools available to bring your teams together, help them feel connected and your employees will emerge the other side of this crisis hopefully well, sane and closer than they were before.

If you need help on creating policies for remote working, please do get in touch – we are on hand to help businesses navigate this constantly changing landscape. Call 020 3457 0894 or email for support and advice.

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