We spend so much of our lives building and participating in communities (like this one).
We choose where we want to live. We choose which friends and family members we keep in touch with. For many of us, the culture and the people are primary factors in where we choose to work. After all, we spend as much time with our coworkers as we do with our families—well, until March 2020.
I don’t think I ever realized how much influence these people have on my life. I’ve booked trips and purchased event tickets on recommendations from coworkers. I’ve made significant life decisions after speaking with coworkers. In some cases, discussions in my work community have changed my worldview.
While I’m grateful to live in a time where IT can send me home to work safely, technology doesn’t fill the void for community by itself. It can help, but it takes effort on our parts.
The reason I felt inspired to write about “connecting with my community” is that the pandemic has taught me that I take my communities for granted, and I suspect I’m not alone. So, in today’s writing challenge, I’ll focus on specific efforts to connect with our communities, including the one at work.
I know it’s easier to pass the time with a Netflix binge or a social media rabbit hole but try a few of these suggestions to connect. The Queen’s Gambit will be there forever.
1) Video chat a coworker about something small
Let’s start with an easy one.
Could your question be answered via Slack or Teams? Sure, but when it feels appropriate, ask your coworker if they have a minute to chat. If you used to walk over to his or her desk to ask that question, chances are, it’d be a welcome social interaction for your coworker as well.
2) Build routine connection times
A few months into all this, I woke up early one Saturday morning to hear my wife on a video call with our nephews and niece. After a few Saturdays, the kids had created a weekly tradition to call Aunt Caity and wake up Uncle Chris. It’s an earlier alarm than I would set, so call it a small price to pay for one of our favorite silver linings of 2020. If not for this tradition, they really might not know who we are. This one started organically, but the point is, try to create routine touchpoints with the people you miss.
3) Zoom on one device, game on the other
Speaking of the Queen’s Gambit, pick a game friends, family, or coworkers enjoy. I’ll bet there’s an app for it. My extended family has a standing Sunday night poker game, and after watching the latest Netflix sensation, my cousins and uncles have started the world’s most pathetic club of digital chess players.
If trash talk is your love language, pick a game all parties really want to win, turn on a Zoom call, and fill a giant pandemic void. For me, there’s nothing like a family member cursing me out over a bad beat to make times feel normal again.
4) Leave a comment to recognize a coworker’s effort
One of the strangest things about 2020 is that nobody is watching us work (I know, joke’s on me). This means you can go to the dentist or pickup your kid from daycare without explaining yourself. But it can also leave you wondering if anyone noticed all the effort you put into a project.
In the prehistoric year of 2019, you could thank a colleague in person. We could go for a happy hour after a time-consuming, successful project.
For our current times, be sure to send a message or leave a comment in the digital platform of your team’s choice. Bonus points for making it public. Additional bonus points if it leads to a conversation with a colleague you’ve never met face-to-face. Communities have always been naturally dynamic, so make a tiny effort to connect with new colleagues when you can, even if there’s no office to facilitate it.
The strongest relationships in my life were built face-to-face. Today, new colleagues are only avatars in my project workflow, so it’s far more difficult to connect on that level. Try to remind those avatars how much easier they make your life—we’ve all had days in 2020 where we can use that kind of reminder.
While we’re “accentuating the positives” from 2020, one the coolest phenomena of my lifetime is how people of all backgrounds have adapted and adopted technology to build stronger communities. Think about all the examples! Teachers and schools pivoting to online learning, grassroots social media campaigns to help those impacted by the virus, and of course, the crowning achievement of humanity—Grandma learning how to join a Zoom call.
Obviously, most of this is impossible without IT, and I know this particular group of IT pros is already quite good at connecting digitally. I would love to hear any more ideas that have worked for you over the last several months.
By the way, I look forward building stronger connections in our THWACK community in 2021. Stay safe and stay connected!