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We Could All Use a Little More of This During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Drew Tumlinson Written by
Drew Tumlinson
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We’re facing a challenging time right now — a literal global pandemic. 🤯

Personally and professionally, the COVID-19 outbreak impacts all of us. As a company, Webfor has supported our community by purchasing and giving away gift cards to local restaurants providing takeout and delivery, transferred our team to a 100% remote office, Kevin is offering his time to clients and non-clients alike to help them brainstorm creative solutions for their businesses, and more. While these have all been beneficial and necessary steps for our company to take, there’s another piece of the puzzle that may not come to mind — our attitudes and communication. 

Empathy Matters Now More Than Ever

Brenè Brown, empathy and vulnerability researcher extraordinaire, describes empathy best in this short video when she says “Empathy fuels connection…empathy is feeling with people.” Brown goes on to explain that empathy is a choice, and a vulnerable one, and that, “rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.”

As more and more locations are ordered to stay home, connection becomes a distant fantasy more than a pleasant reality. But that doesn’t have to be the case. As Brown suggests in her definition of empathy, all we have to do is be empathetic to others in order to feel connected. 

If you’re chatting with a coworker and they seem a little short or irritated, remember that they just transitioned to working from home full time, while their child(ren) is home from school, and their spouse is home from work for the foreseeable future. At least 25% of the week is spent at work, and now that entire routine has changed due to circumstances outside of their control. Generally speaking, as humans we don’t handle change very well. 

It’s important to keep in mind what all is going on in others’ lives, especially in times like these. 

How To Be Empathetic When You’re Struggling

Right now, I think it’s fair to say that everyone is struggling to cope with the impact COVID-19 is having on the world and our day-to-day lives. That makes it difficult to be empathetic towards others sometimes, so here are a couple quick tips on how to continue to practice empathy during stressful times:

  • Breathe. When you want to respond with anger or frustration, take a breath. You’ll be surprised at how easily you can bring yourself back down to a calm center and respond appropriately.
  • Walk. I mentioned this in a post I wrote on LinkedIn about tips for working from home, but it applies here, too. Take your breaks! A quick walk around the block or even through your house will help clear your mind to return to your tasks and messages refreshed and refocused. 
  • Remember. You’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed and anxiety-ridden, and everyone else’s reactions and responses are likely coming from a very similar headspace. It’s so easy, especially during this time of social distancing, to feel alone. It’s important to remind ourselves that we’re not alone, and whoever you’re responding to needs an empathetic response just like you’re hoping for.

Effective Communication

Being empathetic towards our peers is one important method to ease anxieties and support each other during difficult times. But you can also take it a step further by implementing effective communication. Empathy is definitely a big part of effective communication, but there’s always more you can do, too. 

Letting your coworkers in on how you’re doing, especially surrounding a global pandemic, can do wonders for the company’s culture and productivity. If your team knows you’re really struggling with what’s going on in the world, they’re going to be more understanding if you need to take extra breaks, for example. 

Speaking of breaks, tell your coworkers when you’re taking a break! Working from home gives us the freedom to take a quick walk to the kitchen to grab a snack, but you need to let your coworkers know when you’re away from your desk.

Maybe the most necessary (and obvious) area in need of effective communication is the progress you’re making on tasks. It’s easy for timelines to shift especially as we adjust to working from home, but if our team doesn’t know about those shifts, it could cause clients to be dissatisfied and coworkers frustrated. 

In the end, it’s probably best to over-communicate right now. You don’t realize how often you lean across the desk to talk to a coworker about something until you are working from home and can’t speak with them face-to-face. Pick up the phone or shoot them a Slack instead to maintain that communication while working remotely.

TL;DR: Practice empathy and communicate effectively.

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