“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone…and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.” ~ Supreme Court Justice (ret.) Sandra Day O’Connor
Staying connected is vital for many reasons. Collaboration is a key underpinning of innovation. And connection is important for mental health. One of the biggest complaints from those who’ve been forced to work remotely because of the pandemic is the lack of connection with coworkers. They used to connect in person at the watercooler, now everything must be done virtually. Having worked from home for most of my career—first my law practice and then my business—I think I’m 'kinda' an expert on how to connect with people who are far from you…distance wise. Here are some things I’ve learned about how to stay connected.
1. Reach out
Connections in an office happen automatically. You bump into people in the break room, you sit next to someone at a meeting, your desk is positioned near other workers. This proximity enables to you maintain social connections (How’s your child doing in school? Do you like your new neighborhood? How’s your mother feeling?).
When working from home, those automatic connections don’t exist. You have to make them happen. It takes effort and planning to connect with people, especially when they’re on different schedules or in different time zones. It’s up to you to arrange for times to connect on virtual platforms or by phone. Commit to maintaining not only the business connections, but also the social connections with coworkers and other business associates.
2. Communicate effectively
When you speak to someone in person, you have body language and other clues to help you understand what’s really being said. Virtually, it’s up to you to be sure you’re conveying your meaning and understand what’s being said to you. It’s up to you to say what you mean…very clearly. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you’re unclear about what you’re hearing.
3. Have an agenda in mind
The time you spend in a meeting—whether in person or virtually—is precious and should be used effectively. Know what you want to cover so that you don’t go off track. You can share a formal agenda with the person or persons you’re meeting with virtually (circulate it before the meeting starts) or have a checklist in front of you when you talk.
4. Handle background noise
Sure, there’s noise in an office…from the next cubicle, fire engines outside, and chatter all around. There are different noises at home…children, pets, other occupants, doorbells, phones. Plan to have a quiet place and time for virtual meetings or phone calls.
5. Practice good manners
In person meetings are helped along with visual clues from those who are present. A virtual meeting can easily fall apart when people talk over each other. Make sure that each participant gives everyone the courtesy of listening and speaking in turn. It’s up to the person hosting the meeting to ensure that this happens.
Whether workers return to the workplace or remain in their homes after the pandemic subsides remains to be seen. Most experts suggest that remote working arrangements are here to stay for many of us. Be sure to master the new skills needed for successful communication from afar. CNET offers 15 video chat tips to help you improve your online communications.