The COVID pandemic has produced many changes in our society. Far too many have been affected directly by death, lingering illness, and economic devastation. These types of losses overshadow the very real psychological toll the pandemic has taken on those who have gone relatively untouched by loss of friends and loved ones or even a decline in income.
In our industry, many of us have been able to continue working remotely. Others have continued working wearing masks and social distancing. In so many practical ways, this is very fortunate. However, it has had its costs. Some social interactions do occur through videoconferencing. At ABS, we have games, happy hours, lunches, and other team building activities remotely, but these activities cannot fully substitute for face-to-face interactions. Likewise, masked faces and social distancing separate us for very valid reasons, but this separation has its costs.
The causal interactions that could occur between staff and departments are largely gone. These are replaced with Zoom meetings and agendas seeking results rather than personal interactions that help to forge relationships. Often interactions center around what needs to be accomplished and what problems need to be addressed. This is not bad, but it can weaken the connections between people and isolate groups from one another.
Pre-COVID separations between departments and limited communication between departments were not uncommon, but there were more opportunities for interactions between people from different groups. Now, by intention, there is more separation. This separation weakens bonds between people and groups. It can create a sense of isolation and magnify differences because there are fewer opportunities to build relationships.
As we move out the of pandemic, we must realize that even in economically viable organizations that there is much to re-build and that some damage has been done. Prudent and necessary medical measures have stressed our social fabric. We must recognize this and work to make it better. Working remotely, video meetings, etc., all have their benefits, but so do causal interactions at lunch or over a cup of coffee. As we move out of the current situation, we need to find the best of both worlds for us and our organizations.