Making stronger connections in era of social distancing

Era of Social Distancing Can Become Time of Building Connections

Dear friends. I hope you and your families are safe and healthy, isolating yourself at home. You probably got a COVID email from every single business and public page you have ever interacted with. Digital branding is not the first thing that comes to mind when facing a global pandemic, so I decided to (somewhat) remove myself from your inbox and feed for some time.

On the other hand, these times of physical social distancing can become our time of digital connecting and reactivating support networks, and concepts we are usually discussing here can be really helpful.

While sheltered at home, we can start thinking about rebuilding connections.

Do you have friends, family members, ex-coworkers or colleagues with whom you didn’t interact in months or years, and who you miss in your life? Were you procrastinating on making that one phone (Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp) call? Do you have that several year old email draft in your outbox that was never sent?

Moment will never be perfect, so why not do this today? As well-known researcher and writer Brené Brown said in her recent update:

Fear and anxiety can drive us to become very self-focused. This global pandemic is a real case of “getting sick together” or “staying well together.” Our choices affect everyone around us. There is no such thing as “individual risk” or “individual wellness.”

Brené Brown on LinkedIn

Can social distancing advance you career?

On the professional side of things, current slowdown (if there is a slowdown for you in your business or work) can represent an opportunity to expand and strengthen your network.

Prune your circles on LinkedIn. Remove connections that were made by mistake, accepted in a rush, those to inactive or empty accounts. Make place for those that are meaningful and active!

Reach out to people in your network with whom you didn’t interact for some time, even if just to ask how are they doing, if everything is fine with them and their families, and show some support in these crazy times.

As Dalai Lama in his “Big Book of Happiness” said, if you extend your genuine sense of concern with respect, that brings genuine friendship and trust.

Maybe that’s also time to send some meaningful recommendations to your colleagues and people with whom you worked or partnered in the past. It’s easy to do on LinkedIn by going to the person’s profile’s Recommendations section and clicking Recommend.

On the same note, you can ask for recommendations in return by clicking Ask for a Recommendation button on your own profile. After that, you will be able to select connections to send your request to.

How to ask for LinkedIn Recommendations
It’s easy to request Linkedin recommendations from your connections.

When you strengthen your distant connections in professional circles, you have higher chances of uncovering interesting opportunities because there are more unknowns in how that communication can develop in comparison to when you communicate with someone with whom you are in constant contact. Researcher David Burkus in his book “Friend of a Friend” refers to them as weak ties and argues for their potential profitability for one’s career and professional development.

So sending meaningful messages to those in the extended network, being genuinely interested in their news, asking for introductions to those in their own immediate networks who might benefit from the connection with you, can go a long way.

I won’t dive into more detail on LinkedIn and its benefits for your professional visibility, you can have my take on that in this blog post: How to Use LinkedIn for Personal Branding, I will only say that if you can do one thing for your online exposure today, let it be setting up and filling in your LinkedIn profile, communicating with your connections, and asking for new introductions.

Some tips for working from home

At first, being secluded at home due to quarantine can feel like a little bonus free time (even though there are all those panic attitudes around, and definitely toilet paper supplies are a big concern… but at least you don’t have to commute!), but chances are, very soon you realize that work-from-home consumes all the possible time and space you have. Because there is no clear division now between work and personal time, the work-life balance is even in more jeopardy than when you are working extra hours from office.

So, finding time to work on your network, send messages and emails to your weak or dormant connections can be a challenge. Having many years of experience in remote work, I’d like to cite here my own recent LinkedIn post on the topic:

…one of the first things I learned when started working remotely many years ago — never, never, never work in your pajamas, or from your bedroom. You will never be able to unplug and recharge afterwards.

My life hack is: always dress up, fix hair, makeup, work from a room which you don’t use for rest or relaxation. I used to work from kitchens, dining rooms, even from kid’s room at some point — anything to avoid working from bedroom.

In order to maintain balance, I also use end of work routines much more consistently than I used to do when working in the office. This can be signing off from email, finalizing to-do list for today, checking calendar for tomorrow. Anything that will let your mind know work is over and it’s time to unplug.

Wishing you health and safety — and productive remote work and networking! — from my home office

My friend Rashim Katyal, event marketer and storyteller from Toronto, also shared some tips on how to organize your space and time when working remotely. It’s very interesting that one of her pro-tips (and she’s really a pro in remote work organizing events across the globe from her home office!) is making sure that you have at least one face-to-face interaction on your schedule daily. Connections and human interactions, even remote, matter! Take a look at her LinkedIn post to learn more.

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