Connect Inside and Outside the Workplace

“Hello?” KD answered. After a tentative start, I could hear happiness flood in when she recognized my voice. Even though she was working on a Sunday evening, she spent about 15 minutes on the call with me. Both KD and I are introverts.

As an introvert, making phone calls is not something I particularly enjoy doing. But the shelter-at-home requirements in many locations make it necessary and useful.

The current times have disconnected a lot of people. Many are either sick at home or out of work. These are the people who most need a connection. Reach out to these people. If you are among the fortunate people who continue to be employed, you have armor compared to those who aren’t.

Social activities and connections are beneficial in the workplace too. According to WebMD, a study done by the University of Warwick found that happiness plays a role in productivity.

“A person’s productivity at work can jump by as much as 12% when happy. It can also drop by as much as 10% when unhappy,” it said.

My company has become more connected since we all started working from home and using Teams to maintain our connections. My employer has approved work time for social connections as well as business connections. Those who desire may join a 15-minute morning meditation or a 15-minute afternoon dance party. There are even two “water cooler” channels, one in English and one in Spanish, where we can post comments about favorite music, movies or books or funny pictures if they are in good taste. We continue to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with online parties and luncheons. Our creative organization has taken advantage of online tools to create animated musicals for these celebrations. People walk away with a literal song on their lips.

As a result of these opportunities, I’m more connected with people who are members of other teams in my department. Through online collaboration, we’ve recreated many of our instructor-led classes as online instructor-led classes.

Being online also permits people to resolve disagreements more easily. My colleague and I had a strong disagreement about the format of an online class. She wanted to reduce a two-day class to four hours. I felt that it should be at least eight hours. We were angry in front of our other colleague who was also on the video conference with us. In our cubicles at our office, another fifteen people would have been aware of our disagreement. But because we were virtual, the two of us privately reconnected later and hashed out an agreement that the class could be completed in six hours. That private reconnection would have been virtually impossible in our cubicle farm. We pulled together a meaningful blended learning class with the help of our online connections.

Connecting is useful for your work, your friends and family — and perhaps for you. Try it.

Roxy Merizalde works for Texas Workforce Commission as a Training Specialist. Pre-COVID-19, she traveled throughout Texas teaching staff The Workforce Information System of Texas (TWIST). Development activities include TWIST, WIT and SharePoint courses and online versions for TWIST.

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Avatar photo Nicole Blake Johnson

These are great examples of how you can still stay connected in a virtual world. I like that your office has a variety of options. Not every employee wants the same level of connectedness, but I love that there is something for everyone.