Lone Rangers: Coping With Social Distancing

One of the current precautions being recommended due to the COVID-19 outbreak is so-called “social distancing”. Basically, it means stay away from other people, to avoid passing or contracting the disease. As a result, many companies (either voluntarily or under the direction of their jurisdictional governments) have turned to remote work – workers clocking in from home and producing over their computers.

Some people always work from home. So this is nothing new for them. But human beings are social creatures. We don’t do well in social isolation; that’s why solitary confinement is considered a severe punishment. If you’re not accustomed to working remotely, it can be a serious culture shock.

If you’re used to going out for lunch with coworkers every day, suddenly, there’s a gap in your social contacts. You might not be able to meet for lunch right now, because of COVID-19 precautions. Those “water cooler” conversations can’t happen. And unless your company has everyone phoning or videoconferencing in for staff meetings, you don’t get the fun banter around the table with coworkers. (Although, some might not miss those staff meetings at all.) So you’re missing out on some of your normal social interaction. If you don’t have anyone you share your home with – family, roommates – suddenly, you’re all by yourself. How to cope?

Here are some suggestions for maintaining a social network when you’re suddenly working all by yourself:

  • The same technology that allows us to work from home can help. Video conference apps are available to anyone with a smart phone. You can try to maintain those social contacts that way. (Or just the good old-fashioned telephone call.)
  • Social media can be used to be, well, social. Sure, a lot of people’s timelines are cluttered with political commentary or the hyper-sanitized versions of their lives, but there’s no reason we can’t be more authentic. (Private messaging to people you trust works well here.)
  • If you normally lose a good chunk of your day commuting, take advantage of regaining that time to connect with family or nearby friends. You might not be able to eat out, but you can meet in small groups (even under COVID-19 restrictions). It could be a good opportunity to recover some of the dwindling art of hospitality.
  • Do you know your neighbors? (I have to confess, I really don’t.) Maybe now is a good time to introduce yourself to that person at the mailbox and have a brief conversation. Might make a new friend.
  • Spend time with your roommates or your immediate family. Play board games. Make a blanket fort with the kids. If you’re of a religious persuasion and can’t attend your regular services, have a family devotional time.

This situation we’re currently in is disruptive to everyone. But we can make the most of it. You might even discover you like working from home. There are some considerations as far as making sure home isn’t too much of a distraction – try to schedule your day, have a “safe space” where you can be isolated from the family in order to get work done – but there are a lot of benefits, too. We don’t have to give up all social contact just because we’re distancing.