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Working Remotely? Bridge Social Distance With Social Presence

Remote Working And Maintaining Social Presence
PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock.com
Summary: Organizations disrupted by COVID-19 can put their corporate eLearning tools and expertise to work to bridge the distance and keep teams connected.

Learn How To Connect While Working Remotely

We’re all being encouraged to adopt “social distancing” techniques to limit the spread of COVID-19. Many companies are allowing, encouraging, or requiring employees to work remotely. Universities are sending students home and taking up eLearning, wholesale, to replace face-to-face instruction. Even when we do see people, we’re not to touch or even get within 6 feet of them. This enforced social distance can be lonely for people who are not used to working and learning from home.

The Loneliness Of The Remote Worker

I’ve worked from home for years, and I love it. I revel in the quiet, the ability to work without interruption, and to take breaks whenever I want. But I know that many people are not cut out for remote work and suffer from feelings of isolation when deprived of the camaraderie of their office.

It’s possible to bridge the physical distance with eLearning and teleworking tools, maintaining the physical distance that keeps everyone safe while also maintaining productivity and collegial relationships.

4 Ways To Create "Social Presence"

Outstanding virtual classroom and videoconferencing tools, like Zoom and GoTo Meeting, are proving their value now, as thousands of companies’ office routines are disrupted.

1. Turn On The Cameras

Move regular meetings, coaching sessions, and training online. An instructor or exec can lead the meeting while others watch, webinar-style, or all participants can activate their cameras to participate. Meeting leaders should ask remote participants for feedback and invite participation, calling on people by name if necessary. This is especially important when the cameras are off and in large virtual gatherings. Workers who are unaccustomed to meeting virtually can find it awkward to break into a videoconference conversation.

Cindy Huggett, an eLearning consultant and virtual classroom expert, emphasizes the importance of video. “Video streaming leads to more effective communication because you can see facial expressions and catch other nonverbal cues,” she wrote in a recent, very timely, article.

Getting a peek at colleagues’ home offices is a fun perk of video calls and meetings. Use the technology in creative ways to stamp out loneliness, such as:

  • Have lunch or schedule a break with a work friend
  • Get your team together daily for a catch-up session
  • Set up a virtual happy hour with colleagues or similarly housebound friends

Video conferencing bridges the social distance far more than a phone call or email ever could.

2. Ramp Up The Use Of Social Platforms

You can’t wander to the break room or your colleague’s desk to check-in. Use email, Slack, Yammer, or the social platform of your organization’s choice to keep the conversation going. Less formal than email, a chat app allows for both work-related and casual conversation. The longer the virus crisis lasts, the more important it will be to nurture those connections with colleagues and teammates.

3. Keep Clients, Members, And Partners In The Loop

Reach out to customers, clients, members—the folks you usually see and talk to when you’re in the office. They won’t be stopping by, but they need to know what’s happening. Depending on your industry, you might be as productive as usual, just dispersed and less visible. If you’re in a business where in-person conferences are being canceled or production lines halted, let partners know that, send frequent status updates, and check in every few days so they know you haven’t forgotten them. And if you will be sending teams home to work remotely, take steps to get them ready, too. TorranceLearning has shared eLearning resources to help you prepare.

4. Embrace Webinars And Group Seminars

If you’re faced with canceling a conference or workshop, consider moving some of the content online. Offer members who’d planned to attend your conference access to webinars and online group seminars. Presenters can interact with virtual attendees, and you can offer handouts and linked resources, and open a discussion forum where participants can chat with one another. It’s not the same as being there, of course, but eLearning can partially bridge the gap until your rescheduled event takes place. It can also keep people excited about the topic—and your organization—until things get back to normal.

Remember: It’s Temporary

Adjusting to remote work can be tough, especially if your entire family is working or attending school remotely together. You may need to carve out quiet workspaces, figure out how to equitably share your internet capacity and devices, and revel in more family time than you’ve had in decades. Keep repeating the mantra: This is temporary. You’ll all get through this and back to work or school. In the meantime, you might discover new ways to enjoy eLearning or use virtual meeting technology to create a social presence.