A Guide to Socializing in the Age of Social Distancing
Source – BBC.com
If you’re one of the many people still working from home, life might feel more socially distant than ever. Safety precautions mean that spending in-person time with family and friends, especially if they’re older or in high-risk health groups, is still out of the question. Combined with narrowing your commute to the space between your bed and your desk, the dearth of social outings has made most of 2020 has felt isolated.
Some psychologists have argued that “social distancing” is the wrong term—while you might have to maintain physical distance from others, you should take advantage of all the virtual tools you can to connect with colleagues, friends, and loved ones. If you’re used to in-person socializing, remote communication can be an adjustment. Read on for three ways to enjoy your virtual work and social connections more.
How to Make Remote Socializing Fun
It’s more important than ever to spend quality time with others, since socializing is good for your brain, your mood, and your health. Still, it’s normal to feel like something’s missing from your online hangouts and family dinners. Grainy videos and dimly lit rooms often make people feel self-conscious about committing to a Zoom or FaceTime happy hour, but if you avoid these opportunities, you’ll start feeling lonely.
Luckily, it doesn’t take much equipment to upgrade your video chat experience; the most essential tools are an external webcam and some kind of light. LED desk lamps are often helpful for illuminating your face without making you look washed out, but if you find that the lamp you have doesn’t give you the lighting you want, try an inexpensive ring light, which you can often find online for under $40. These circular, face-framing LED lights are a long-time favorite among YouTubers and videogame streamers who spend a lot of time on camera.
With better picture quality, you’ll feel like your digital happy hour is closer to the real thing, but another common issue is finding a way to replicate the spontaneous energy that arises from meeting with friends or family in person. Consider planning some web-friendly activities for your next meetup, like watching a movie together. If you’re friends with a lot of avid gamers, think about making time during the week to play online together, too.
How to Have a Better Conference Call
While some offices have embraced the video chat for weekly check-ins, chances are that you’re still speaking to many clients—and some co-workers—over the phone. If those calls are happening from your personal cell phone, as they are for many remote workers, you’re probably longing for some of the features your work phone system had. It can also be stressful and disruptive to receive surprise calls from work on your personal phone if you’re not expecting someone from the office to check in.
Even if your office isn’t likely to reopen any time soon, you can fix this problem with softphone apps, which use VoIP services to connect you to calls so you can speak with co-workers and clients from your desktop or a dedicated mobile phone app that looks different from your personal phone’s call screen. They also include business features like call recording, conferencing, and a digital receptionist.
Virtual phones don’t require any physical equipment, so once you choose a service, you’ll be able to use your smartphone as two phone lines in one device. Keeping work and personal communication separate will help you shore up boundaries between the office and home.
How to Handle All Your Notifications
In the socially distanced world, some remote workers may be managing fewer in-person interruptions, but vastly more digital interruptions. Even before COVID-19 forced large portions of life online, notification overload—apps, texts, messages, and calls—was a common complaint. A growing body of research demonstrates that when you’re interrupted during a task that requires concentration, getting back on track is cognitively costly; each jolt of distraction that arrives with a new notification erodes your productivity further.
With most people corresponding throughout the day via group text, Slack, and Messenger, the ping of notifications can quickly become a deluge. Advice about turning off your notifications and being fully present in the physical moment seems dated—after all, if you turn off all your notifications, you really will be missing out on communication with the people in your life who are most important to you, both personally and professionally.
For a more refined approach, begin by turning off your email notifications. Most people receive dozens of emails daily, and you often won’t be able to answer emails right when you see them. Schedule morning and afternoon appointments for managing correspondence, and clear important emails first. The difference in your response time will only be a few hours, and you won’t be trying to ignore emails while you’re doing more involved work.
You can also mute group chats and turn on your phone’s Do Not Disturb feature while you’re busy with work or trying to relax away from a screen. If you know there are important people at the office or at home for whom you always want to be available, program their numbers into your phone so they pass through call screening. With more control over when you can be reached, you’ll improve both the quality of your work and of the communications you do want to have.
Staying in touch with the important people in your life is one of the best things you can do for your happiness and career. Make sure you make the best of the time you can spend with people whose company you enjoy, even if it’s only possible through digital communication.