Don't be pressured to be social!

People and companies everywhere have turned to virtual systems during these unprecedented times and companies who never thought they could, are working remotely (quite successfully I might add). And this virtual culture has extended into the lives of families who cannot be with each other physically, resorting to Zoom calls, Hangouts and Teams.

What is new for me though and many others are the pressures that come with virtual living during this lockdown. As humans, there is this core need to connect with other like-minded individuals or just simply people we like. And it’s this core need that has put a certain pressure on people who are less susceptible to acting on it.

Ok yeah, yeah I am being cryptic. What I am saying is that for an ambivert such as myself, sure I miss my family and I would give anything to see them. But that need to constantly be around people is something I cannot resonate with. Apart from just finding social interactions draining, at a time like this whereby so much is going on, that constant need to be “Always on” gives me all sorts of anxiety.

My phone screen time has hit an all-time high with an average of 7 hours per day. That is staggering considering I use to average about 2.5 hours per day. Just thinking about that makes me anxious (first world problems I know). And if I do leave my phone unattended for more than half an hour I am stressed about seeing 12 missed calls, 180 Whatsapp messages, 80 E-mails, 30 Teams messages and a dozen Instagram notifications. I sat in my car the other day having a mild panic attack because so much of it required some level of perceived urgency (both personal and work).

Then there is the pressure to voice how I am feeling. Emotions are daunting enough as it is and while it may be unhealthy to bottle them in, some of us have ways to work through them, and being vocal about it is not always it. Sure I share my surface emotions on Instagram when I am angry at an Animal abuser or Happy at a new delivery but diving deeper into emotions can become tedious for Introverts and Ambiverts. So the next time you ask someone how they are really feeling and you get a neutral “good” – do NOT dig deeper.

So what is it about this lockdown that has put immense pressure on communication?

In the workplace

Well, quite simply, because virtual communication is the only way to keep in touch with our loved ones, colleagues and clients right now. It has replaced morning brunch dates, family dinners, business meetings and company catch-ups. In companies specifically, there is this strong presence of overcompensation for not being in an office or in front of a person. People feel they need to be “Always On” and pro-active in order to show their managers and peers that they are in fact working and the result of this is that people are working harder and not smarter. People feel this need to create a strong online presence in the work environment in fear that if they do not, it will be taken as non-conformity and non-compliance.

Family Life

In families, people feel the need to be calling each other every day because if you don’t there is a general consensus that you just don’t care. Never mind that you have been bogged down by 10 Zoom calls, 4 of which could have been an email. Worrying that you are missing out on key aspects of people’s lives such as birthdays, anniversaries and just celebration-worthy occasions often has us reaching for some sort of communication to replace not being able to be there.

Being tugged at both ends for undivided attention and this “Always On” mentality, in my opinion, is like striking a match. It is quite simply fast-burning. Now don’t get me wrong, life before the lockdown was no walk in the park either. The 2-3 hour traffic delays for morning and evening commute, coupled with the early mornings and late nights, and you still somehow manage to squeeze in gatherings, dinners and meet up’s was daunting too. I guess with the Lockdown my assumption was that it would be a lot calmer, less pressure. Wrong. Instead, now there is a silent pressure for you to be…you guessed it…“Always On.”

So what next?

How do you go about navigating the virtual world without the fatigue that comes with it? Firstly, it is important to know when it’s too much. Some of us may not be in complete control of our diaries especially if these meetings place reliance on you for your contribution or if it is deadline-driven etc. But the least you can do is balance out your day well.

Digitlab’s Employee Experience Designer Clare Van Rensburg has outlined some of the key routines you can adopt to ensure that your virtual environment is something you look forward to. In addition to that you can do the following:

  • Ensure that you have at least half and hour between meetings.
  • It is okay to say no to a meeting if you have a valid reason and if that meeting could be an email. If it is a 2D conversation then chuck that into an e-mail thread, buying you an extra hour in the day.
  • Take your lunch break – away from your desk or your laptop.
  • Take your 15-minute tea break away from your laptop and phone. Soak up some Vitamin D.
  • Set up family catch-ups twice a week with everyone so that individually it is not too draining.
  • Have the intense conversations with family telephonically, leaving your Whatsapp groups for the light-hearted stuff that you look forward to engaging with.
  • Give your phone a break. Put it to charge away from you and watch a movie, picnic outside, play with your dogs or have a two-man house party.

And last but definitely not least, it is okay to take a day or two away from technology and people, if only just for your sanity 🙂