Social wellbeing in a virtual workplace

As we have all discovered over the last few months, social wellbeing is a core component of our health. It is integral to our mental, emotional and physical health. We are the most nurture dependent species that has ever existed on the planet so when we don’t have social interactions, we can feel demotivated, self-deprecating, overwhelmed and we are more susceptible to stress from everyday experiences. Not only do our relationships impact our mood, over time, how we interact with others actually impacts the structure of the brain, our immunity and overall health. It has even been suggested by some that social isolation is as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

As we move into a new way of living and working, we must remember that although we are physically distanced, we are not socially distanced. Technology means that we are more connected than ever. However, we do need to learn new skills to maintain high quality connections in this remote workspace.

To help you start this learning journey, here are 3 simple tips to optimise your interactions to support your wellbeing, productivity and your community.

Managing video fatigue

Video calls and meetings are exhausting, more exhausting than face to face conversations. The reason is that when we meet in person, much of our communication is non-verbal so when we ‘meet’ online our brains need to work a lot harder to pick up on these non verbal cues. This increases our cognitive load, the effort and energy needed to communicate effectively. For this reason, if you are doing lots of calls in a day you need to ensure you are taking enough breaks to counteract that and you need to use your breaks wisely. Simple ways to do so are ensuring you have 5-10 minutes between calls and use this time to take yourself off technology. Looking at your phone or checking emails does not qualify as a ‘break’. Get outside, go for a walk, try some mindfulness or listen to some music. Ensure your evenings also include some tech-free time so you are giving your brain the time to refuel and recalibrate between your days.

Commit to your community

  • It is important that we connect with people every day, which should include at least one face-to-face experience (video or in-person) as well as any other forms of contact that suit you. Do remember that some people may feel more comfortable with a phone call, rather than a video, so respect that, be adaptive and creative. If you are trying to build a community in your workplace, consider arranging ‘potluck’ coffee dates. Simply pair up people from all levels and departments in the company to have a 15-minute virtual coffee chat. This will get new conversations going and ensure people feel connected. It is particularly powerful if you are trying to onboard people at this time.

  • If you are looking to build a stronger community out of the workplace, make a list of people you would like to connect with. Consider who you can call to celebrate with, to learn from, to be inspired by, to ask for help from or to offer help. Try putting 3 people in each list and working through this over the next few weeks.

  • While doing this, do also remember that if you have been on lots of calls and you need some time away from your computer then it is ok to say ‘No’ to a request for a call. Kindly decline and, if you are happy to, schedule a call for another time.

High quality conversations

 When we are not getting out and about as much as normal, it can feel like we have nothing to chat about. This can feel awkward when speaking with colleagues and friends alike. It can also be hard to be honest when we are feeling down or anxious, particularly if we know we are lucky in many other ways. Regardless of this, it is essential that we have a time and place to express how we are feeling and to acknowledge that “it’s ok to not be ok”. This is what is known as ‘emotional literacy’ and it is a cornerstone of wellbeing and resilience. To make your conversations more powerful, try to be honest about how you are feeling and encourage others to do the same. You may want to ask, “how are you feeling on a scale of 1-10?” and then explore what is contributing to that. You can also explore what the highlight of someone’s week has been as well as the biggest challenge. in doing so, try to focus on what has been learnt as a result of the challenge. The current time is an opportunity for great learning and speaking to others is a great catalyst for recognising this. (If you want to learn more then get in touch with Charlotte as she will be running a series of webinars on this topic over the months ahead.)

The bottom line is that both maintaining our relationships and being innovating in our communication styles is essential at this time. As leaders and team members, this is our opportunity to use this time to build stronger communities, cultivating trust, connecting more honestly and supporting each other. Commit to this now and you will reap the rewards for the long-term.

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