Physical distance. Not social.

Now that many former office employees have made the transition to working from home, it’s time to integrate social time. Similar to keeping your work time routines and close to your old normal, try to keep your social time routines close to normal while adhering to the social distancing, self-quarantine and flatten-the-curve directives we’ve been given.

Nothing will take the place of a good old fashioned get together, but thanks to video conferencing technology, we can get sort of close. This goes for both personal and professional settings. I’ll tackle each separately, but they most certainly can intermingle.

Text, Voice and Video Conferencing Software

First thing’s first.

All of the suggestions will rely on a communication software, save for classic phone calls. Here’s a few you can evaluate for your needs. Keep in mind, there are some built-in options on mobile devices. They may work just fine for what you need.

Skype

Microsoft’s free text, voice and video app. Up to 50 people in a video call are supported.

Google Hangouts

Google’s free text, voice and video app. Hangouts supports up to 100 video participants.

Zoom

A more corporate solution for managing communication needs. We use it in my organization, and I don’t think I’ve used anything better. No, no one paid me to say that.

There’s a free version, but it limits group meetings to 40 minutes and supports up to 100 people in a video meeting.

For Pro options, meeting time isn’t limited, and for the highest option, supports up to 500 attendees. You likely won’t be needing this.

Facebook Messenger

Messenger supports text, voice and video calls. It supports up to 50 people in a video chat.

There are fun filters and silly face transformations that are awesome when you’ll be video chatting with kids. Or adults who appreciate silly humor.

Discord

Discord is geared towards gamers, but there’s no reason you have to be affiliated with gaming. However, it’s better for larger groups to communicate over time, not just a one-time video call.

You can set up multiple text and voice channels, generally set up to break out different topics. I find it super easy to drop in and out of voice channels.

Video calling doesn’t seem to be part of the community server, but you can start a call with an individual or group from direct messages.

Keeping Social Interaction with Remote Colleagues

Video-On

If you’re a manager or meeting host, initiate a video-on policy for at least a few meetings.

Engage more senses by seeing each other and not just hearing. The majority of human communication is based on visual cues. Have you ever been on any sort of phone call and caught yourself nodding, then remembering the other person can’t hear you? Yeah, that.

Just like you’d see each other in a conference room, you’ll see each other in a meeting. One step closer to previous norms.

Text Chat

Since you’re not in the same office anymore, you can’t just pop into your office mate’s cubicle for a quick question.. which turns into an off-topic chat about last night’s replay sports game (did you see that ludicrous display last night??)

Those water-cooler conversations can be distracting, sure, but conversation is part of human nature. Being available via a text chat platform feeds two birds with one seed. Get your quick questions answered (without totallyinterrupting your colleague) and stay a connected, too.

No-Pressure Lunch Meetings

Schedule a video lunch meeting to hang, eat and chat, just like you normally would. This will also help ensure you’re takinga lunch break.

Feel free to turn it off the camera when you’re eating, but pop it back on when you’re not. The idea is to be connected in a less formal setting. Ask how they’re doing, share memes, relax a bit, compare the weather where each of you are and just be yourselves.

Stay Connected to Friends and Family

Keep the Book Club alive

Just because you can’t gather in one person’s living room and discuss the latest section of your book club book doesn’t mean you can’t! Join it virtually from your own living rooms. The only real downside is that you’ll have to provide your own wine and snacks.

Not to mention, you’ll have more inside time to catch up on the book.

Virtual lunch dates, coffee dates and/or Happy Hour

If book club is not your thing, plan a lunch or coffee date with a friend. Like with book club, you’ll have to provide your own beverage and meal.

Looking for a bigger group? Opt for a virtual happy hour with a group of friends. BYOB though.

Use these as an opportunity to check in with each other and help each other cope.

Skype and Schmooze? SiP and Sip? That’s Shelter-in-Place and Sip.

Synchronous Movie Nights

There’s a Google Chrome Extension called Netflix Party that allows you to start a program and invite your friends to watch at the same time. It’ll sync your playback and add a text chat box to the screen.

A few things to note:

  • You’ll each need to be logged into your respective Netflix accounts
  • It’s not available on mobile. Laptop/desktops only.

Alternatively, you can host Facebook Watch Parties with videos already on Facebook. This includes Live video so if there’s a music artist streaming, share the love.

Dog walk “together”

At the time of writing, we’re still allowed to go outside for walks, provided we keep that 6-foot distance from others. Whether or not you have a pup to take along, have a friend join you via mobile video call.

Give one another tours of your afternoon walk and if you do have a dog, allow them to join in on the fun, too!

Online gaming

If you’re a video gamer or know a gamer, it’s a great time to try something new and play with friends.

Playing a game together gives you automatic common ground and something else to focus on if you’re not the most conversational type. There’s always something to ask a question about in a game or commiserate over difficult puzzles and monsters. Choose cooperative games for best results.

Pair this with a voice call, text message or use in-game chat to stay coordinated with each other.

This is how I stay in closer touch with my sister who lives two states away.

Board gamer? Asmodee Digital has a collection of Euro-style board games, like Ticket to Ride, Splendor, and dare I say it, Pandemic, ported to mobile iOS and Android devices. Not all are multiplayer compatible so make sure to check the details before purchasing.

Video and phone calls

And of course, there’s your regular ol’ phone calls and video chats. Chances are, the friend or family member you’re thinking of also needs some extra social interaction.

At the very least, text more.

Physical Distance, not Social Distance

Humans are social creatures. Even the introvertest of introverts needs a friend every once in a while. Check on each other and take care of yourselves, too.

Don’t be afraid to get creative, too. This week, I plan to test run an online lunchtime game with a couple of colleagues.

What are you doing to stay social?


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