The Challenges and Opportunities of Pandemic-era Connection
In the COVID era, the only certainty is that nothing is certain.
Forming and maintaining authentic connections, for instance, has taken on new meaning. As we pass the one-year mark of the pandemic, I want to reflect for a moment on how things have changed and grapple with what staying connected has meant during an unforgettable 12 months.
One of the most vivid ways the pandemic has complicated our connections is through the disruptions it introduced to home life. Schedules had to adapt to accommodate online schooling. More adults also now work at home. Even when these potential distractions are overcome, there is still Zoom to contend with, which presents its own challenges regarding connection and collaboration.
“Zoom fatigue” is a real thing. It is far more difficult to develop an emotional connection with fellow meeting participants through a computer screen. It can be incredibly challenging to simply stay in the moment and not get distracted by what is going on in the virtual environment.
The disconnection of working remotely has even, at times, been a source of stress, which is why it has been important for companies to prioritize self-care and the emotional and mental well-being of their employees. One of the many things that I appreciate about Alliant National is that, from the first day of my employment, I have felt as if they cared about me as a person – not just as a professional.
A silver lining of the pandemic, however, is its universality, which I suppose, in a way, is its own form of connection: a connection built around shared experience. Whether it be the lack of communication or struggling with technical difficulties, we have all been required to adapt to a new way of working. I mean, at this point, who isn’t familiar with the pain of a disruption in video or sound on a communication platform?
The new world created by the pandemic has also had an impact on the nature of connection as it exists in my job. In sales, more than anything else you are selling trust. Pushing a product during a time when many people are under immense strain can feel a little callous. But helping your clients adapt to a virtual world builds trust and helps them protect their business. I have also found that making yourself available outside of traditional working hours and through a wider array of communication platforms (such as social media) can be enormously beneficial for these relationships. In the COVID era, we need to be collaborating and not merely pitching our clients.
COVID has had other positive impacts on connection, particularly when it comes to technology and family life. Older generations have been pushed to embrace technological solutions to stay in contact with their personal and professional networks. Our family interactions have become less scheduled, with real, genuine moments of spontaneity now being possible with children and spouses. I feel that this dynamic with our loved ones has become somewhat of a rarity. For all the destruction the virus has caused, reconnecting with friends and family in a deeper and more protracted way has been a true blessing of the past year.
Nearly everyone had to get creative to connect with clients, extended families and to fill time. Many turned to home renovation and improvements. DIY is at an all-time high, and people want to change their interior space to make it more conducive to family rooms that really function for families. They have added home offices or updated kitchens that are really being cooked in now.
Personal hobbies have skyrocket. Cooking classes, exercise forums, online knitting groups, even virtual interior design classes have sprung up to take the place of in-person site visits. The innovation of the pandemic is truly inspiring. While we still crave the personal interaction of experiences, the option of a virtual experience opens up opportunities for all of life’s challenges outside of a pandemic.
Flash forward to today, and we are now potentially at a turning point in the story of the virus. I am looking forward to a return to the office, as I feel it is healthy and necessary to communicate in a live environment as opposed to solely a virtual one. Spending this year largely separate from my colleagues has confirmed what I already suspected: as a salesperson, I need the type of face-to-face interactions that a computer simply cannot replicate.
Still, it is important to recognize that some things have probably changed for good. Full-blown office environments are likely going to be a thing of the past. Companies have invested heavily in equipping their employees with solutions to facilitate remote work. They have also realized that their work-forces are capable of being productive while off site. Whatever the future holds, there is no doubt that the coronavirus has taught us many lessons about the nature of connection – both personal and professional, good and bad. We should carry these lessons with us long after the pandemic ends.