This informal CPD article Staying Connected in a Remote World was provided by Lianne Weaver of Beam Development and Training, a provider of CPD accredited courses designed to help employers and employees take responsibility for their wellbeing.
The upheavals which 2020 brought to the workplace ushered in a new way of staying connected. Overnight we were in a world of video conferencing in place of face-to-face team meetings, sales pitches and training courses.
As we start 2021 many of us are still living under tight restrictions, and working remotely is likely to be with us for some time. Some teams may never return to the office full time. This will suit some colleagues; for others it will create a challenge they may need support to overcome.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought different struggles to different people. We may be in the same storm, but we are all in different boats. As the storm continues, leaders need to be able to recognise if their team members are struggling. At some point during this crisis, all of our colleagues are likely to need the support of others.
Why we reach out to others
We are hard wired to reach out to others, particularly when we are struggling. In the eye of our individual storm we may have moments when we don’t want to speak to anyone – but eventually we will start to seek support.
When we are under stress we produce adrenaline and cortisol, but we also produce low levels of oxytocin – the ‘love drug’. This hormone creates the rush you get when you hug a loved one, for instance. It is the hormone the brain produces to enable us to bond with others. So it might come as a surprise to learn that we produce it when we are stressed.
Researchers found that, if we are going through a challenging time, we instinctively know that we need the support of others. So by releasing oxytocin the brain is encouraging us to seek out that support. Think of challenges you’ve been through – you are likely to have reached out to family, friends, professionals or a support group to help you through.
Building a support network
Supporting remote teams through the ongoing challenges of the pandemic means more than making sure there are plenty of video calls in the diary. Colleagues need to be empowered to recognise the importance of reaching out when they need support.
Encourage colleagues to ensure they have a strong support network. Ask them to consider the people they spend most time with, as everyone in our lives can either nourish or deplete us. Importantly, these people won’t necessarily be the people we love the most. As we are considering the people we spend most time with, it could include colleagues, for instance.
It’s important to note here that all of us can be depleting at times. The very reason we have friendships and relationships is so we can rely on others during difficult periods. Think about a friend whose presence usually nourishes you. If that friend is going through a relationship or health problem, for instance, you might need to support them for a while, and you may find that for a time they become a ‘depleter’.
This situation notwithstanding, we need to ensure we have a better ratio of nourishers to depleters in our everyday lives. If the reverse is true, this is something that can be worked on to build a more effective support network and to help us increase our resilience.
And in terms of seeking out support when we most need it, it’s important we continue to see, speak to or message others – in that order. We get the most benefit from seeing others, which admittedly is a tall order at the moment. Yet even a chat with a neighbour over the garden fence can help. If this isn’t possible, then call a friend. Sending a message should be the last resort, as it doesn’t give you the same emotional connection as seeing or speaking to someone.
We really need others in order to thrive – we are community animals. While 2020 taught us all how to stay connected remotely, in 2021 let’s take on board the importance of why we need to connect, and make sure we’re doing it really effectively.
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