How to Stay Connected while Social Distancing
“Everyone has a plan until we get punched in the mouth,” boxer Mike Tyson famously said when asked about his fight plan for the 1997 WBA Heavyweight Championship. That was Tyson’s way of saying that once a fight begins, everything is uncertain except the will and strength of the combatants. His words certainly apply to the extraordinary situation we face today as COVID-19 continues on its devastating path around the world.
Stop the spread
To “flatten the curve” of this epidemic, we find ourselves in a strange “new normal.” We’ve vacated our offices, shut down our factories and closed our playgrounds and parks to slow the virus spread – under government orders to exercise, not socialize. The vast majority of us are willing to do what we can to break the transmission chain, even if that means spending weeks, maybe months apart from our co-workers, friends, neighbours and family members.
Support each other
Corporate Marketing Team Selfie
At the same time, social distancing is hard – really hard. It’s alien to our human experience and runs counter to our need for interaction and connection. Being under lockdown can lead to a whole host of mental and physical challenges, from anxiety and depression, to chronic illnesses like hypertension. Now, more than ever, we need to reach out and support each other - to get through these challenging times – stronger, together.
Learn from experience
As a leading health solutions partner that is committed to the overall wellbeing of Canadians, we’re here help. We’ve drawn from our own experience to offer advice and suggestions on how we can stay home, stay connected and stay healthy – all at the same time. Feel free to share.
Organizations from the top down have had to make Grand Canyon-sized shifts in mindsets and approaches to work - while in the midst of a full-blown health care crisis and economic downturn – with no business plan template ever developed for a situation like this. Most have turned to technology so that employees can work remotely and ensure business continuity with lots of audio and video conferencing options on the market to choose from.
These digital connectivity tools are user-friendly, for the most part – and affordable, up until now anyway – and can be used all kinds of purposes – from an online town hall for staff to a virtual "quarantini" party with friends. (We bet you’re all wishing you had stocks in companies like Skype and Zoom right now).
Provide guidance and advice
A sizeable percentage of Canada’s working population has never worked remotely before including 40 per cent of Medavie’s 6,400-member workforce. Consequently, the office-to-home transition has been a huge adjustment for them – especially those with young children competing for their attention – and a massive undertaking for our IT staff. So what have we learned from our experience so far? We know that is essential to equip employees with the knowledge – and the confidence – they need to use these new-to-them technologies.
Keep lines of communication open
This involves regular communication with employees to provide guidance and advice, as well as to keep everyone up to date on operations. Again, technology plays an important part in our connectivity, with webcasts and webinars now extra essential tools in our communication toolboxes.
Keep humour intact
Peter Macaulay, Corporate Account Executive
As Medavie employees settle into their new at-home work lives, they continue to meet through audio and videoconferencing calls – and are doing so with resolve - even humour. For example, members of one of our sales teams get together for a virtual huddle each morning, leading off with a Richard Simmons-led workout, and wearing fun clothes and hats to add a little levity to their situation. As they have shown us, humour can go a long way in keeping up morale – while reminding us of the importance of staying fit.
You may have heard of the book “Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” The rules of kindergarten certainly apply to the virtual workplace. This includes being kind to others, showing respect and exercising patience. So turn off your computer’s Wi-Fi connection if you don’t need it and don’t lose your cool if it takes more than a day to get your computer up and running. Be mindful of the fact that everyone is trying to do their best under extraordinary circumstances.
Do mental health check-ins
Be sure to reach out to our co-workers, outside “normal business” hours, to see how they are coping with the stresses and strains of being confined to their homes. Let them know they’re feelings are normal and reassure them that they are not alone. Lift each other up by exchanging healthy food recipes and at-home exercise ideas, sharing inspirational messages and funny memes. These mental health check-ins should also extend to our network of friends and neighbours and most importantly, our family members.
Be there for our families
We understand that working from home can be a difficult balancing act when you’re running interference with your children, while listening to your manager give a presentation. Keep in mind that they’re making a big adjustment too and recognize that it’s okay to stop what you’re doing to spend time looking after their needs. Piece together a giant puzzle or release some of their pent up energy with a pillow fight.
Do you have family members that can’t be with you right now? What better time than now to show grandma and grandpa how to use Facetime or Skype? Connectivity – as well as positivity - can be powerful forces in maintaining the health and wellness of our loved ones.
Help out friends and neighbours
From chalk the walks to balcony concerts, we’ve seen lots of uplifting examples of neighbours coming together to build and strengthen sense of community – while staying apart. These are the silver linings that get us through difficult and uncertain times. As Mister Rogers told his young television viewers, we can find hope and get comfort in a crisis when we look for the helpers.
Better still, we can be one of those helpers. How? By lending a listening ear and helping hand – at a social distance - to neighbours who are elderly, frail, living alone and may be feeling quite vulnerable right now. Give them a call. Send them a text or message on Facebook. Knock on their door to see how they are doing. Offer to run an errand with curbside delivery.
Support our communities
Local businesses are the lifeblood of our nation’s economy – and they need us now more than ever before. Check to see what restaurants are doing takeout, what stores are making deliveries, or what professionals are offering expertise online. Order a pizza, enrol in a virtual class, purchase a gift certificate – do whatever you can to help these entrepreneurs, employers and economic drivers of our communities going.
Show health care workers we care
Of course, we can’t forget the health care professionals and emergency service personnel who are on the front lines working day and night to care for others, along with essential workers from grocery store cashiers to truck drivers. Let them know how much we appreciate them with a friendly smile or wave, a kind word or a free coffee.
Give the “hand heart gesture”
Medavie is encouraging our friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter to show care workers that we care by taking photos of themselves giving these “heroes without capes” the “hand heart gesture”, with a thank you note, expressing gratitude for their service above self. We invite you to check out our social feeds and join in, by using #HeartOurHealthCareWorkers in your post.
By joining forces for the greater good we will win this fight – with collective will and strength.