What is the impact of restricted socialising?

Life can be monotonous and repetitive at times and the current restrictions on socialising only serve to amplify this. The less physical human interaction we have, the less opportunity there is for the unexpected and the unplanned. Instead of bumping into someone you know on the way home from work and deciding on a later train home, we find ourselves planning what we are going to watch on Netflix in the evening, just so we have something to look forward to. 

At the office, whilst we have been making great use of the technology that is designed to bring us closer together, a lot of our interactions have become organised, structured and measured. With the increase in numbers of people now working from home and isolated from each other, we are all experiencing less of the free, unguided human interactions that make up the space between tasks. Even in meetings, where you might have some time allocated for “free discussion”, the topic or theme has likely been pre-set and ideas shared need to be in line with the purpose of the meeting. 

Efficiency, focus and productivity are of course essential in the business world. But without the informal, free flowing “chit chat” from one desk to another we are missing out on something that is still highly valuable to organisations, as well as individuals. 

The benefits of unguided human interaction

This kind of interaction is where some of our best ideas come from. It allows our creativity to flow and allows “free association thinking” to take place, which is important when it comes to our ability to problem solve. 

Spontaneity helps you embrace change, which is a highly valuable leadership skill. When we do something on a whim, it doesn’t always work out for the best. But there is value in being able to take that experience, being able to fix it and move on. Being able to cope in these situations removes our fear around doing new things and builds confidence in our ability to take chances. Essentially, increasing our comfort with risk taking. 

Another important skill, leaders need to cultivate is not just spotting opportunities, but being brave enough to make the most of them. Doors open for us all the time, but in order to really maximise on an opportunity, you have to be ready to act. Getting comfortable with acting spontaneously allows you to be ready to change course at any moment and jump at the chance. If we feel the need to plan every step, we can’t make the most of the opportunities life presents to us. 

So, how can we incorporate spontaneity into the workplace? How do we harness that “off the cuff” energy in a place with so much structure?

Encourage new connections                                                                                                                Encourage new connections by shaking up the work structure and routine now and again. You could start by making some physical changes, have a switch around in the office, ask teams to swap desks for a week or simply move your home office around. It is said that moving 10 items to a new position in the room, releases dead energy and allows fresh energy to flow. Or, you could stimulate changes in thought and approach. Mix up your teams once in a while, disrupt the natural partnerships that occur in the office. 

Put your people in touch with team members they wouldn’t usually work with. Working with new people encourages you to think in new ways, builds confidence and helps people to feel inspired. Task your team with finding out about each other in a new way, push them to relate to each other’s personal lives more, find out about their weekend, their families etc. Encouraging new connections whether it be with a colleague you wouldn’t normally work with or finding out about a part of someone’s life you wouldn’t normally ask about, helps us to expand our thinking, stretch the imagination and gain new perspectives. All of which are valuable to businesses that are under constant pressure to adapt to ever-changing customer needs. 

Impromptu recognition                                                                                                                                      We often think of employee recognition as something that needs to be official and documented. An employee appraisal is scheduled once every 6 months, there are specific areas to cover and praise is related to each aspect of the job role. Equally, managers can easily get so caught up in the never-ending to-do list that a simple ‘well done’ or ‘thank you’ to their teams can sadly get missed. Encouraging on the spot appreciation or introducing a recognition programme that harnesses the power of spontaneity can bring a genuine sparkle to the work day.

Users of The WOW! Awards Programme will know just how big a difference an unexpected compliment from a customer or colleague can make. A recognition programme that helps you to capture those golden moments of service excellence that would otherwise be lost, shares them throughout the business, logs them against an individual’s performance, whilst at the same time brightening up someone’s day when they least expect it or need it most. There is of course still value in the formal appraisal, but it can be complimented and enhanced by a recognition programme that takes employee recognition away from being a ‘tick-box’ exercise. 

At the end of the day, spontaneity sparks joy in our lives. It brings us into the present moment, which is ultimately where happiness exists and it makes our lives fun! Let’s not forget to have fun at work too.