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News & Blog

Apart But Not Alone


Apart But Not Alone

  • 6/17/2020
  • Future of work, Working longer, Digital, Workplace tools, Brain & mind, Community

Social distance doesn’t mean we can’t connect.

by Naomi Kaufman

While it’s true that meeting face to face is great, it doesn’t need to happen nearly as often as people think in order to create close ties. One of my colleagues lives in London, and we haven’t seen each other for over a year. With the latest travel restrictions, who knows when we’ll be in the same city again. Yet we’ve managed to build a productive, successful, and creative working relationship.

The team meets regularly by video chat. I consider these people my close colleagues, but because of our geographic diversity, we have very few in-person meetings.

Building professional ties virtually does require more intentionality than just bumping into each other in a work setting, or seeing each other around town. You can create “virtual water cooler moments” with little actions that affirm your ties, and build into a larger whole.

If you read or hear about someone you know, shoot that person an email and ask how life is going. If you read an article you know one of your connections might find interesting, send it along. Did you read a book, listen to music or tune into a podcast someone recommended? Send a quick note of thanks, and let them know what it meant to you. Make an unscheduled call to say hello or reconnect. Even if you get voicemail, that voice-connection to let someone know you are thinking about them is a plus.

This is networking! These small actions don’t need to be profound, so don’t sweat the details. But make them frequently. Don’t think of these actions as distracting — you are intentionally creating “connection history,” even when in-person visits aren’t possible.

Phone and email are good — mixing in video conferencing is the next best solution to being in person. If you’re not accustomed to seeing yourself on video, you can change your settings to minimize your window, or just put a sticky note over your own picture! Practice with a close friend or family member, and go from there.

Here are some great videoconferencing tips and tools.

Spring and summer is a big professional conference season — and no one can meet in person right now. Companies and professional associations are experimenting with online programming. To boost attendance, many are free or very low cost. It’s a great time to check out industry events that you may not otherwise be able to attend. Learn from experts about hot issues in your interest area, engage in online sessions, and build your network.

Okay, so what about personal connections? Some of my dearest friends live in other parts of the United States. We have lots of ways that we stay close and engaged in each others’ lives, even though we see each other in person very infrequently (unfortunately!)

With a little creative energy, convert activities you did in person to virtual experiences:

  • Create a virtual coffee by video chat — one time, or regular occurrence
  • Create an online book club
  • Virtual museum visits — use virtual networking software, and share screens to “visit” the galleries
  • “Attend” online concerts, movies or shows with one or more people- then set up time to discuss afterward

So many organizations are offering online experiences for free or relatively low cost. Any interest you have, you can find it online these days — from online photography to virtual athletic events. You can even volunteer online.

Keep up the virtual “touches.” So simple, yet so often not done. Connecting with people on a regular basis will set you apart. Figure out an appropriate cadence to connect with each of your contacts, and create a system to do it consistently. Keep your connections informed about your life, your activities, and your interests. Ask them to keep you posted as well. The more your connections know about you, the more likely they are to reach out to you when events or relevant topics pop up.

Have a favorite way to virtually connect? We’d love to hear from you!

This post was originally published on Jun 17, 2020 on Medium.

Drop me somewhere new and I’m ready to create an adventure. I’m an avid outdoors person, yogi, and believer in lifelong learning.

Connect with Naomi: Linkedin



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