child and dog touching laptop

Is COVID-19 helping us restore empathy?

You arrive at the office, first things first… Grab a cup of coffee, say hello to your colleagues, go to your desk and now you are ready to start your day… Check e-mails, organise your to-do list, maybe even having a team stand-up. A day just like any other, right?

That same day you receive a company-wide e-mail letting you know that for the next 2 weeks (at least!) you will be working from home. You then realise that you won’t have to commute to work so you will be able to stay in bed the extra 30min you love, and finally you are actually invited to work from home, without having to plead your case to do so. Nice right?

The first week was great, all the benefits of working from home, more time to exercise, having a relaxed breakfast, not changing to your daily clothes because there is nothing more comfortable than your pyjamas!

The second week starts with a bit more issues, your neck and shoulders hurt from working on your laptop, you are tired of talking to your colleagues through your computer, you know everyone is working towards the same company goals, however you feel isolated and are finding it hard to collaborate in these circumstances! You start missing interacting with your friends, going for drinks, to your gym or eating in your favourite restaurant!

The following weeks only make these issues more real and you start wondering when will this stop? When will we go back to “normal”? Or, Is this our “new normal”?! Unfortunately, nobody has the answers to these difficult questions! We know that perspective plays a large role in stress management, so let’s look at the positive side of things.

When grabbing a cup of coffee in the morning to say hello to your colleagues, maybe you knew they had kids, and pets, but how much more did you know about them? Most of the time, they were just another person with a set of skills working with you towards business goals.

How much more do you know about them now? You have probably seen their kids, their pets, their loved ones on the background while on a video call, you even know their living room. You have been there with them, through your computer, but you have been there nonetheless! You have a feeling that you know what they are going through, you are all going through very similar challenges. We now have a feeling of “we are in this together”, “we can protect each other” and so on… This is known as empathy.

child and dog touching laptop
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

study from the USA in 2010, among college students, has shown a decrease in empathy of 48% between 1979 and 2010. We are now connected more than ever online, however we are finding it harder to connect with our peers, in real life. We have higher levels of loneliness now than ever before which is impacting our health and well-being.

Naturally, we are finding it hard to collaborate with our colleagues while at home and discussing important matters over a video call is not easy. There is an understanding however that it is not easy for any of us, and we are not the only ones going through it. In order to make these interactions easier, it is important to capitalise on the virtual hangouts/coffees opportunities with colleagues, even taking up stretching or mindfulness breaks together to help see you through as a group (see Ogimi Health for more information).

Your colleague is not only a person with a set of skills in your company anymore, they are real, multifaceted beings, with feelings, goals and challenges that likely are similar to your own in some way…

I like to think that we are now connected on a deeper level, and it would be great if we can take the connection formed during this tough period along with us when we get back into the office.

Don’t just ask how the weekend was, go a little more personal, you know more about them now than before! In this way we will improve our well-being inside and outside work.

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