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COVID-19: Physical Distancing, Not Social Distancing

Post Author Rob Loose
Apr 22, 2020 4:15:00 PM
Workforce Insights
COVID-19: Physical Distancing, not Social Distancing Blog

Are you ready for a new normal?

Experts predict that, after COVID-19 is history, we will adapt to a "new normal." It's quite possible we won't shake hands anymore, facemasks will be the new-hot fashion accessory, and many more jobs will migrate to employees' homes. As we adapt to the new normal, I wonder if we'll pay better attention to mental health.

In hindsight, we may wish physical distancing was encouraged instead of social distancing.

The basis of social distancing is reasonable, but it is also flawed. People are naturally wired to be social; hence, isolating ourselves from others is mentally unhealthy. Instead of social distancing, the wise folks at HSE Global encourage practicing physical distancing but continue to connect socially.

With all of the technology at our disposal, we can very quickly physically distance ourselves yet remain social by using Zoom, Facebook, Snapchat, FaceTime, and too-many-to-count other virtual networking tools.

Like many people, my family is sheltered in place at home, waiting for the signal that it's safe to begin the new normal. Meanwhile, we find ourselves busily managing work and school obligations: conducting web meetings, countless phone calls, and homework, homework, homework.

Using technology, we continue to collaborate with work and school associates. Beyond our jobs and school, I have enjoyed watching my kids employ amazingly creative ways to practice physical distancing yet socially connect. My son joins his friends nightly competing in video game tournaments. My daughter hosts FaceTime movie nights with her friends. Hanging out this way is strange to me, but they look forward to virtually socializing with friends.

Suffice it to say; throughout the day, my family is physically distant but socially connected in a virtual way!

When it comes to the employment setting, mental health is becoming a less-taboo topic for employers to explore. Thank goodness! Experts have discovered strong correlations between employees' mental health and productivity, safety, and job satisfaction.

Thus, in a pandemic situation, employers should promote physical distancing and social connecting. They should adopt tools that allow teleworking employees to continue to collaborate electronically.

For example, we recommend starting with supervisors, as they have a significant opportunity to influence an employee's mental health in a positive manner. Ask them to make it a daily practice to check in with team members, asking how they are doing, what their stress level is, and how they are coping.

As discussed before, a mentally and emotionally healthy workforce will yield higher results.

I hope our "new normal" arrives quickly: people return to work, and the economy has a giant recovery. Maybe folks will replace greeting by shaking hands with, instead, warmly smiling behind the flashy face mask and bowing politely. Who knows?

I hope the new normal takes into account the importance of preserving our mental health. In the face of the next global pandemic, may we follow the advice of HSE Global to practice physical distancing and social connection and, maybe we'll learn about virtually hanging out from our kids along the way.

All the best, and live safety!



Many companies are adjusting to the new reality. Rob Loose, MAU's Director of Safety, shares how to boost your safety at home during challenging times.

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If you have questions about how to implement any of these tips at home or in your organization, we're here to help. From job board optimization, social media strategy, and applicant communications, we have the team to help you get the job done, during times of crisis and always.

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