people

People Need Each Other

By Jennifer Mackin

First of all, don’t judge me for what I’m about to tell you. A group of friends, whom I’ve known for many years and vacationed with in the past, asked my husband and I to join them on a short trip.  After carefully thinking through the feasibility of leaving our city, after many months of isolation, we decided to make it happen. There were 10 of us that vacationed in Aruba last week. Again, before some of you give me the evil eye about spreading Covid-19, let me tell you how I arrived at the decision to go:

  1. We had safety precautions in place (i.e., we were all tested for Covid-19 right before leaving the States, as Aruba requires this for all incoming guests to the country, and we stayed within our group for all meals and activities)
  2. We needed to be with friends. Maybe “need” is a strong word but being with others was feeling more like a need than a want after the long period of isolation
  3. I believe the vaccine is a long way away for the masses, the survival rate is going up and up, and we don’t see an end in sight for many months ahead with more isolation in our future

Maybe I’m rationalizing this decision, but I’m on the other side of this trip and I’m glad we took a risk. My need for people interaction isn’t dissimilar from what I’m hearing from most other people. Leaders and other employees need people in countless ways and in various degrees that Webex and Zoom can’t fully fulfill. However, we don’t have a choice of other means until we can safely get groups of people together.

So, what have organizations done?  The answer, of course, is the hard pivot to virtual environments.  Much of our work now is virtual. The majority of my company’s leadership development work with organizations—all across the world—is now virtual.  It was 10% virtual pre-Covid, so the shift has been dramatic. However, our virtual leadership programs are getting great results as measured through knowledge retention and the expression of leaders showing up stronger in their leadership practices. Should we continue to conduct everything virtually, even when it is safe to gather in groups in the near future?  It may be financially beneficial to work remotely with increased work efficiency, cost cutting for travel or less overhead costs of physical office spaces. But at what cost to our people’s wellbeing and, possibly, sanity?

I’m more certain than ever that we will get back to some semblance of face-to-face interaction as soon as it is safe for the majority of people to do so. Relationships with others are vital to our well-being as social creatures.  I’ve read studies that consistently point to our need for others. Through a pandemic leadership survey my company conducted in June, I have also learned that our clients believe that taking care of their team’s wellbeing is at the top of the focus list. Eventually, that will include having more safe interaction.

I’m now feeling full again, after this trip reconnected me to people I love, to laughing until crying, having significant life topic discussions, and just sharing meals. Whichever side you fall on with regards to travel right now and the spread of Covid-19, I hope you find a safe way to get some of your important people together. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown vacation in Aruba, but I highly recommend it!