In these extremely difficult times that the world is experiencing with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, populations have been asked to retain a physical distance between each other to prevent the transmission of the disease. The human being, however, is hot-wired for social interaction. It is a basic human need to feel loved, appreciated and valued. It is foundational to being human to interact, discuss issues and relate to the joys or pain of others. So maybe the term should be physical distancing and not social distancing?

In the workplace, during these anxious moments, leaders need to find ways of maintaining cohesion and the spirit of the values and culture in the way that interactions take place. Even if many employees are now working remotely, staying at home rather than coming into the office, managers should facilitate care and togetherness to retain the concept of team – we are all in this together.

Some ideas to retain the spirit of the company culture include the following:

  1. Have a weekly check-in huddle at the beginning of the work week – using one of the video connection tools (like Skype, Zoom, etc.), set aside time to find out how everyone is doing. The objective here is not to discuss work-related issues, but to connect. Work-related issues can be discussed on other set occasions.
  2. Pick up the phone – avoid disconnecting channels like texting or messaging, but rather speak audibly to your colleagues. Everyone needs to hear voices.
  3. Develop a caring roster – some companies assign a colleague to another to care specifically for that person during this time of anxiety.
  4. Relate issues back to the company values – issues should not be discussed in a vacuum, but should be solved on the platform of the company values. Employees need to connect to the values constantly.
  5. Practise innovation and creativity – how are we going to deliver our products or services to our clients in ways that will meet their needs without transmitting the virus? A video conference call with everyone present helps to stimulate this creativity as colleagues offer their ideas.
  6. Use employee ideas when under financial pressure – if the company faces financial challenges during this period of uncertainty, get the employees to offer ideas on how to navigate through the mess.
  7. Close the work week with a check-in huddle – be encouraging on video to demonstrate care and to mitigate anxiety.

Business must play its part of offering encouragement and care during anxious times. The human being is a social creature – practise physical distancing, but retain social cohesion.

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