The other day I took my grandson Jude to my office. He loves going there, because the company that has graciously allowed me to have office space also has a break room for its employees. It’s loaded with all kinds of fun activities like Foosball, bumper pool, ping pong, and video games. We had a great time, but being there reminded me of one of the ambiguous losses we have all been experiencing since the start of COVID-19. We’ve lost relationships. Before the pandemic, that break room would have been a gathering spot for fellow workers to play, catch up with each other and share a meal. Now, most of the employees are working from home, and I doubt that’s going to change anytime soon.
It’s hard to put a value on even the most casual of relationships that were typical of working in an office with each other. The loss of those relationships is yet another of the many reasons behind The Great Resignation. It contributes to the feeling of “what’s the use of sticking around this company” when I’m just isolated, staring at my computer screen in my basement.
Add to this the isolation of at-home learning, mandatory quarantining, online social gatherings and the general sense of skittishness from being around others, while the relational losses keep piling up. Side note: Yes, some introverts are having a field day, but even they will tell you there is definitely something missing from their lives…people.
I wonder what will be the long-term impact of these damaged human connections…this ambiguous loss? In my last two posts, here and here, I’ve reflected on the work of Dr. Pauline Boss and her belief that closure is not something we can or should count on when we face loss. There is much ambiguity in grief.
Is there a way, though, to lessen the distress of lost relationships, even if we can’t find any kind of resolution? Tell me what you think about these few ideas:
- Do an inventory of the relationships that mean something to you, and systematically reach out to them regularly via your preferred virtual methods. It may feel a bit contrived, but it’s better than ghosting.
- Since Zoom can take more effort than you feel up to…relearn how to call people on the phone. Remember that?
- Go back to the methods we all used early in the pandemic, like meeting around a bonfire outside.
- Be prepared, when the coast seems to be clearer, to go back to in-person gatherings. I am afraid that it has become too easy to just stay home and engage virtually. I’ve been grateful for online participation, but I’m becoming shallower the longer I’m not face to face with people.
- Employers, open up an honest conversation with your employees about this. Let them tell you what they want and need in their connections around their workplace.
I guess my biggest fear is that, in our general distress, we will feel too overwhelmed to try to recapture what we’ve lost relationally, and we’ll allow former friends, acquaintances, and fellow workers to just fade away.
Let’s not let that happen.