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Connecting from a Distance

Pandemic Series: Part Three

published on
September 9, 2021

Over the past year, being physically distant from each other has required changes in the way we communicate and stay connected. While this has been a challenge, it has also allowed us to re-consider not only how we communicate, but how we might improve, even beyond the pandemic.

WITHIN OUR AGENCY

At Simon/Myers, all-agency interactions became more important than ever. While they were also harder to organize, we learned that regular interaction with our team was crucial to feeling connected and supported.

In addition to our weekly all-agency calls, we made a point of hosting monthly Zoom happy hours, which allowed us to connect casually as a team. It may sound obvious but seeing each other’s faces and chatting about things outside of work really does help us create stronger bonds and grow together as a group. It also reminds us that what we do as an agency is a team effort. To spice things up from our day-to-day Zoom calls, we organized activities like we would for our in-person gatherings. Making cocktails together, building terrariums, and playing themed games are among the highlights from this year.

 

WITH OUR CLIENTS

Not seeing our clients in person has been extremely frustrating. But from now on, thanks to Zoom, we may benefit from more client face-time than ever before. Pre-pandemic, Zoom was not even close to being a regular part of our meeting routine. When we couldn’t see clients face-to-face, we had conference calls—complete with the awkward pauses, talking over each other, and hand gestures that couldn’t be seen.

Zoom minimizes opportunities for awkward conversations, and even miscommunications, thanks to facial cues and body language you simply can’t get over the phone. For these reasons, we plan to continue using Zoom even when the pandemic is over.



AIMING TO DISCONNECT

While working from a distance has certainly made it harder to connect with colleagues and clients, in some ways it’s become harder to disconnect. Utilizing Zoom and other conference calling software comes with its downsides. We’ve grown accustomed to hopping on calls rather than sending an email or Slack message, and have had to navigate being strategic about when each mode of communication is appropriate to use (and for how long). 

Something we are all too familiar with after this year is the fatigue that comes with spending all day on a screen, trying to squeeze work in between the many calls that Zoom has seemingly exacerbated. While we like Zoom from a communications standpoint, we still need to consider the costs and benefits of it from an efficiency and budget standpoint. Plus, protecting our team from the fatigue that comes with it is something we’re working to do better.

While we’re still navigating this problem ourselves, we’ve come up with some strategies that have helped us in this area. A big one was creating a system to set statuses that alert team-members when you’re “Interruptible,” “In the Middle of Something,” or “Heads Down. No Distractions, Please.” While working in an office provides everyone with visual cues of when would be a good time to interact with team members (spinning in your desk chair vs. headphones in, focused-face on), it’s not so easy to sense in a virtual setting. These simple green, yellow, and red circles next to everyone’s face and name on Slack help let our team know when would be a good (or bad) time to reach anyone. 

What strategies has your team implemented to help connect and disconnect during this time?

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