With public events around the world being cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, air and other travel plummeting, and people looking at their coworkers and clients funny with every cough or sniffle, many people have been asking how we can maintain a sense of civility, camaraderie, and respect when everyone is afraid to get too close to or touch other people.
I don’t want to seem like an alarmist or add to the coronavirus anxiety and worry about getting sick or spreading illness. However, at the same time, I don’t see why we can’t use a little common sense when thinking about how we interact with others when it comes to keeping our businesses running and seek out alternative ways to show we care without being in close proximity or making physical contact with others.
Here are some ideas that might help.
Instead of hugs and handshakes, try big smiles and sincere tones.
You don’t need to shake hands, give hugs, or otherwise get in people’s personal space to show them you’re happy to see them. A warm smile and a sincerely stated, “So good to see you!” or “Welcome to the store. Let me know how I can help you!” is a great substitute. However, you have to really look and sound like you mean it, so that means you have to really mean it!
Make and maintain eye contact.
Another way to show true interest in another person when you’re communicating is to make and maintain eye contact with the person. Eye contact not only sends a signal to the other person that you’re paying attention, but it’s a pivotal part of the listening process because it allows you to pick up on nonverbal cues the other person might be sending. For example, let’s say you’re explaining to a customer how a product works and you say, “Does that make sense?” The customer might say “yes”, but if you’re really paying attention and maintaining eye contact, you might see that slight look of confusion on his or her face that will let you know they don’t understand, but don’t want to be rude.
Give people your undivided attention.
Another way we can communicate that we care is to stop trying to multi task and give others our undivided attention when they’re speaking with us. This is not only important for in-person interactions, but virtual ones as well. It’s not okay to mute your line during a virtual meeting or close out your video while you go do something else. If you’ve committed to the meeting, stay on and involved for the whole thing. Staying online lets others know that the meeting topic and they are your priority.
Use virtual meeting tools in lieu of close-quarters, in person meetings.
There’s really no reason to cram your team into the conference room for every staff meeting. Tools like ZOOM meetings and other virtual meeting platforms allow you to meet, see each other, and allow everyone to participate without being in physical proximity. Not only will this minimize the potential spread of germs, but it’s a great way to save some time in everyone’s day. When people can logon from their desk instead of having to travel, or even take the time to walk to another building for a meeting, those saved minutes add up.
Let people know you’re still there and available to them.
Whether it’s your boss, colleagues, employees, or customers, when we’re “staying away” from each other physically, it’s super important that we let people know we’re still there for them. This means reaching out, by phone, email, or video- to check in on others. It means being more active on social media and via email to keep your customers updated on the latest with you and your company.
For goodness sake, stay home when you’re sick.
It used to be that people looked at you like you were a hero when you “sucked it up” and went to work feeling like crap. Nowadays, you’ll not only get dirty looks, but you risk the wrath of others if you go to work, travel, or go out in public when you’re obviously sick. You have sick days for a reason and even if you don’t, it’s time to start considering the impact of going out while sick on other people. With the ability to shop from home, have things delivered, participate in virtual meetings, and telecommute, there’s no good excuse for going out and risking spreading your illnesses like the coronavirus and the flu to others.
With a little caution and creativity, we can continue to grow our businesses and careers, even in an age of coronavirus fear and Germaphobia.