Art’s Role in Aging Well

Many of us have a hobby that falls under the umbrella of the arts—dance, instrumental music or singing, visual arts like painting and drawing and even sculpture, sewing and quilting, storytelling and poetry writing. As we age, the importance of holding fast to these vital parts of ourselves seems only to increase. While in any chapter of life the arts enrich our lives and give us invaluable means by which to express and process complex emotions, experiences, and ideas, now research is showing that art is particularly important for fostering “meaning, joy and a vibrant sense of well-being” in the lives of older people. For instance, one study sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts showed that “when older people become involved in culturally enriching programs, they experience a decline in depression, are less likely to fall and pay fewer visits to the doctor. In another study among people with Alzheimer’s disease, a sculpting program improved the participants’ mood and decreased their agitation even after the program ended.”

In the words of Janine Tursini, who directs the Maryland-based Arts for Aging Program, “The arts open people up, giving them new vehicles for self-expression, a chance to tell their stories” and thus her belief in the benefit of “programs [that] capitalize on assets that remain, not on what’s been lost.” Focusing on all we have still is an important mentality as we age and engaging in the arts supports this practice. Take for instance the benefits of movement in dance and performance which promote physical and emotional healing, strengthening the body’s strength, mobility and balance; or the social component of these programs, which bring seniors together in a positive setting that affirms healthy aging and robust quality of life. These aren’t activities or environments that demand any youth or age-specific performance; rather they simply invite participants to bring their talents, interests, and insight to an expressive pursuit. The benefits are tangible—such initiatives which engage the arts and bring the aging population together clinically correlate with lowered blood pressure, decreased stress hormone levels, and elevated levels of hormones like endorphins and adrenaline that resemble a runner’s high.

The arts belong in every person’s life in unique and individual ways, and beautifully, the ability and space to continually engage in expressive and emotive pursuits isn’t the property of one age or population. Art is for everyone, and for us as we age, art has only greater merit and potential, to help us stay connected, positive, expressive, and vibrant.

Fill in the Blank on Why You Want to Work Remotely

Examining why you want to work remotely is the first step.

When employers trust their employees to work remotely and when, more importantly, employees take time to examine why they want to be away from the office, a remote working option can be a win-win for both parties.

I hear it every day: “I can’t wait to work from home, so I can _____”.  And the three most common reasons I hear are: reduce stress, end the commute, and avoid office politics.  Of course, there are other answers shared but to be honest these three are echoed over and over from applicant after applicant I speak with.  Remote employees who truly value their “remoteness” seem to repeat the three reasons like a mantra almost unconsciously.  Hum it with me:  less stress….no commute….no politics…  See?  You’re feeling better already.

By closely examining your true desire for working remotely you’ll reveal something about your inner motivations. To be successful working away from the office you have to want to be a remote worker for the right reasons. Not so that you can do laundry, binge watch that show you’ve been itching to see, bake cookies or succumb to any of the dozen other distractions being at home presents. You have to want to work remotely because you want to WORK remotely. Because you don’t want to spend hours in your car. Because you’ve tired of meetings that rarely serve a purpose. Because the mantra has become more like a subliminal scream that you can no longer ignore.  Because…(fill in your reason here).

Working remotely for the right reasons may not only free your schedule a bit but it can also free your mind. You might find you’re more creative, less anxious, and more eager to tackle work that is otherwise pushed off to the side in the office. Several people have told me that their time working from home has given them more energy, focus and drive. It has allowed them to feel more in control of their day and what they accomplish (and they unquestionably tend to accomplish more!).

It’s okay if you’re just not ready to leave the structure of an office or if stress, a long commute, and office shenanigans don’t really exist in your world. There are definite benefits to working in an office such as enjoying the energy of others and interacting in person. This is why you need to start with the question: Why do I want to work remotely? Take your time and be honest about your motives and whether you can really see yourself removed from a traditional office setting, whether it’s on a permanent basis or a couple days a week. This examination is only as good as the time and space you give it. Good luck! – Elizabeth Kordek, CPCU Senior Placement Specialist

The Case for Unretirement

Since 2000, the number of people aged 65 and over who continue to remain employed has increased steadily. A large number of these professionals have gone through what economists call “unretirement,” the term for taking the employment U-turn from retired to back to work. For instance, a 2017 survey from RAND Corporation found that “almost 40 percent of workers over 65 had previously, at some point, retired.” Kathleen Mullen, RAND senior economist and co-author of its American Working Conditions Survey points to this study’s “evidence that retirement is fluid […] There’s less of the traditional schedule: work to a certain age, retire, see the world. We see people lengthening their careers.”

So what’s going on? Why are so many people attempting retirement but quitting it? It’s one thing to observe that veteran professionals are staying in the workforce longer, but it’s another to understand why. As Paul Davidson for USA Today explains it in his piece on workplace solutions to delay retirement,

“Faced with a wave of Baby Boomer retirements and a worsening labor shortage, many employers are trying to hold on to their older workers, persuade some to return after retirement and even recruit those retired from other companies. They’re offering flexible arrangements that include part-time schedules and phased retirements that gradually reduce hours. And they’re often receptive to work-at-home set-ups.”

As lifespan continues to increase and as people enjoy increased years of continued physical and mental prime, more seasoned professionals are feeling the pull to keep bringing their deep expertise as well as their drive and focus to an economy that desperately needs them. Concurrently, employers are finding themselves best situated to retain these professionals when they open themselves up to a number of logistical arrangements that allow these veteran workers to postpone their retirement. As Jacqueline James, co-director of the Boston College Center on Aging and Work says, “If you have good employees, you want to keep them.” And while detractors of this openminded approach to retaining seasoned professionals often bemoan older workers as burned out or technically inept, according to Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School in Philadelphia, they actually “have lower rates of absenteeism, less turnover, better job performance and adapt well to new technology.”

The future of successful organizations means broadening the approach to retaining expert, veteran talent. It’s not a trend, but a fact of successful business practice. The future economically and socially involves a lot more people working, but these unretired people are happy about it—they’re working productively, in ways that complement their lifestyle, personal needs, and skill sets. For the veteran professional with that itch to keep working, what could be more compelling than the case for unretirement?

What’s in a Name?

Remote, according to Miriam Webster, has several meanings.  Some of these include:

  1. separated by an interval or space greater than usual
  2. far removed in space, time or relation
  3. out of the way, secluded
  4. small in degree, slight.

There are a few others, but the four listed, are those that I take issue with.

I am considered a “remote worker” in that I work from my home (or basically from anywhere with a secure internet connection). Sure, I don’t travel to a physical office location every day, contribute to the office coffee fund or consult a stack of papers tucked away in a file cabinet to do my work.  But I can attest that I am never separated by “interval”.  Everyday I interact with my coworkers whether via phone, email or using a networking platform.

I am not tucked away in a cave, nor am I hunkered down in a cabin in the woods (though I could be).  I can take a quick walk outside to check mailbox and say hi to neighbors on the way – no seclusion here.  People within my organization and those outside of it consistently react and respond to me.  The work I do is current and time sensitive and not far removed.

Perhaps the most important aspect of being a “remote” worker that runs counter to Messrs. Miriam and Webster’s definition is number four, the importance of my work.  It is not small or slight, in fact it is enormous, and puts me at the precipice of the revolution of changing workplace culture. My work is relevant and challenging.  It is sometimes frustrating, but always rewarding.  In no way could it be described as small or slight.

Thankfully, my company, Work At Home Vintage Experts, did not include the word remote in its name.  I believe that is because, that would be a misnomer.  We work at home but are not remote.  My co-workers and I, along with our clients and customers, are connected. Our business pursuits and professional goals are in lockstep with each other.  We recognize the potential and power of dedicated, intelligent people who work from home.

We are not remote, we are connected, involved, engaged and insightful!   So, I suggest consulting your dictionary before using a word to describe something. – Deborah Falco, Administrative Assistant

The Traveling Mind is the Creative Mind

Summer is the season for travel, particularly for those who work full time, brick and mortar jobs or have kids in school—those whose lives are tied down to schedules that demand regular physical proximity. For retirees, travel has long been a herald of the great freedom from the 40-hour work week and the office job. Now it’s a year-long opportunity not just for those who’ve left the workforce, but for professionals and pretirees who are members of the expanding world of flexible and remote work.

Travel is often construed as a luxury, an experience for only the select few with the funds and gumption for packing up and expanding their horizons. But travel actually has great potential for all individuals as well as professionals, to broaden our exposure to new perspectives and ideas, and deepen the creativity and flexibility of our minds. Research over the last decade supports the notion that immersing ourselves in new cultures, whether it’s a different region of a vast country like the United States, to different countries and corners of the world, “increase[s] both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.”

Not only does experiencing new places and people appear to improve our brain’s capability for “cognitive flexibility,” or “the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component of creativity,” but it also seems to counteract closed-mindedness, by introducing us to new people and ideas that are positive and induce our trust. This trust in concepts we’ve previously most likely been closed off to or skeptical of helps us push against habitual tendencies to take essentialist and narrow views of newness, from people to ideas. As Atlantic contributor on travel and mental health Brent Crane puts it, “In other words, those who put people in boxes had trouble thinking outside the box.”

Travel might seem like a far-off dream—to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China, or the Pyramids—but it can be as simple as pushing ourselves past our comfort zones, out our doors and into new corners of our neighborhood, city, or country. Be flexible about your location and scour for deals. Book an inexpensive flight, and head to a new place for even just a few days to a week. Immerse yourself—meet the people, try the food, explore their history, and enjoy the rich benefit to your mind as you become a more creative, receptive person. If you’re a remote flexible worker, like us at WAHVE, you have the benefit of being able to work while bringing your fresh insight and appreciation for outside the box thinking right to your current projects.

May your summer be one of new experiences and growth, as a person and professional! And hopefully once you’ve been bit by the travel bug, it will be a habit that doesn’t just get relegated to summer but becomes a rich and vital part of your life, all year long.

The Amazing Virtual Retirement Party

 

Cupcakes, camaraderie, and a little crying

I recently attended a virtual retirement party to celebrate the hard work and success of one of our dear colleagues. I wasn’t really sure how a virtual retirement party would translate. After all, we couldn’t hug her goodbye or give a toast and clink glasses. Since the company I work for, Work At Home Vintage Experts, is entirely made up of a remote workforce we had no other option than to use the cyber world for the going away soiree.

But I can honestly say it was a blast. Everyone in the company logged on to our virtual party room with video feeds going. We could see each other smile, laugh, and cry. We could give our heartfelt wishes to her and her husband, who also joined the party. We even had actual cake! The day before the party a box was delivered to each of us at home and we were instructed not to open it until the party. In the box were two jars of wonderfully delicious cupcakes-in-a-jar from Wicked Good Cupcakes. We all opened our boxes and together had our treat for the party. It was a great way to enjoy the celebration as a group.

The party lasted about 30 minutes and we closed our connections after our last goodbyes. The camaraderie of the event wasn’t lost on any of us. We all felt we really had been in the same room and it was surprisingly intimate despite the physical distance between each of us.

For anyone who may be afraid of what a remote workforce will do to company culture, I can tell you that culture isn’t defined by the proximity of your workers. It is created by the care and planning taken to ensure that interactions with your staff are meaningful, honest, heartfelt and sincere. The leaders of an organization define the “feeling” of a company and leaders willing to put in the effort to make interactions with everyone in the organization impactful will reap the reward of an engaged and committed team, no matter where they are located. – Elizabeth Kordek, CPCU Senior Placement Specialist

An Anthropologist Looks at Insurance

 

To start off, let me confess that I’m not an insurance person at all. I’m actually a retired university professor of cultural anthropology.  Of what you ask?  It is the study of other cultures, that’s what.  I was inducted into the insurance profession by my wife, Sharon Emek, the founder of WAHVE (maybe I should say I was indicted).  In any case, I did learn a thing or two about human nature both from my college level teaching and my own experiences in the profession.  As a social scientist, you do learn how to be a good listener and a good interviewer, and you do get to know the people you work with (I use italics here because I never thought of what I did as work:  it was fun!). And that’s what I want to tell you about.  If you have questions, please raise your hand.

My job at WAHVE is to interview and qualify applicants to become remote, at-home workers.  So, I have plenty of opportunity to use my highly-toned social science interview skills and academic wisdom (not entirely a joke).  From that perspective, what did I find out about the insurance profession and our applicants who are its practitioners?  What, indeed!  But let me start with a preparatory word about the enterprise of the analytical interview.

First, please remember the cardinal rule of the anthropological enterprise. The well-trained social scientist does not begin by jumping into a social milieu and firing questions at all and sundry.  On the contrary; no, the first task in any sociological project is to formulate the right questions.  Before collecting the data from live subjects, the smart social scientist must know what he’s looking for.  What is the scope of the knowledge to be gained?  To whose good and for what purpose?  So, being a punctilious social scientist, I sat down last month and, before putting pen to paper (I’m dating myself, I know), I gave all this some thought.  A few weeks later, a eureka moment came to me. What I wanted to share with you, my colleagues in my new vocation of insurance, was: what kind of people want to continue working in the insurance industry after retirement age?  Why not just enjoy the grandkids and the golf?  Why bother?  And, why do they want to work from home?  In other words, what are their motivations and goals in applying to the WAHVE program, aside from just the income, I mean?

In aggregate, answering these questions might indeed help us understand what is currently happening within this ageing industry and what’s happening within the workforce in the broader sense when it comes to seniors and life-work balance. This in turn might help us counteract the loss of talent and even, maybe, help us find a way of enticing younger folks into a graying and seemingly unappealing profession.  So, for example: what gratifications do people experience in this business?  What gives the practitioner of the insurance business a sense of fulfillment?  Of course, many other questions could be asked, but being judicious social scientists, we have to narrow the scope and concentrate on the most salient.

I could at this point regress and get academic on you, dear reader, dazzle you with jargon and cultural theory, anthropological methodology and tedious statistics; but I’m not going to do that.  The reader is no doubt already thoroughly confused, a softening-up, which is the first step in successful scholarly communication.  Habits are hard to break.  But now, all that being said, it’s time for the enlightenment.  Besides, I’ve been sufficiently through the boredom mill of theoretical and methodological comments and have a generally merciful soul.

Let’s start with the data.  In this case the data are simply facts drawn from my thousands of interviews with people seeking to remain in the insurance game by going remote in the WAHVE model. What we must look for are convergences and common denominators, all the while being on the lookout also for anomalies, variations and deviations from the norm.  Well, wait… is there a norm?  That’s the first question.  Convergences in what people say, if ample, denote common themes, and common themes, in turn, denote statistical correlations in life experience, professional and life-style goals, not to mention feelings, in general, about working the insurance business.

Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks. What are these people like? What do they say and think? Instead of citing a thousand case studies at you, a scholarly trick to induce tedium and therefore gullibility, let me use the old standby model of what is called the composite interviewee.  This is a person with all the common denominators encountered in the data collection process who creates a single sample individual who represents the norm.

What about methods?  What I do is call and interview our applicants, asking them various questions about their backgrounds and credentials in order to establish their eligibility.  I also query them about their goals in applying to WAHVE.  Not to belabor the matter, the questions are direct and businesslike, interspersed with some personality questions, which supposedly provide insight into the applicant’s psychological suitability to work loosely supervised from home with a presumably high degree of industriousness.

So, I speak to the applicant–maybe for 10 or 15 minutes. There are two interviews: the first is preliminary screening; the second a much longer in-depth interview which comes only after the candidate has shown seriousness and sent in our detailed four-page application form.  Most of our candidates are women (about 80%), so our composite will be female.  She’s between 55 and 65 years old, and either has been retired for a few months, or she’s on the verge of retiring from a full-time insurance job–most often with an independent agency or a brokerage firm.  I handle the retail and independent agency side of the business; a colleague takes care of the carrier and the wholesale sides. So, keep that in mind.

Now, this Applicant is, of course, pre-selected.  That is, folks who apply to WAHVE already have certain distinguishing qualities.  For example, they are eager to continue working despite their years, meaning they are enthusiastic about insurance and enjoy the work.  They’re partial to the idea of working from home.  Many find retirement boring, or in the case of the still-employed, a daunting vacuum, a scary inchoate nothingness, in which they fear drowning in boredom.  Obviously, our applicant is also industrious, motivated and energetic.  She’s not lying down on the couch and putting a foot in the grave, or worse, playing endless rounds of golf.  She wants more in her golden years.  So, I call her.  She answers the phone briskly.  I introduce myself, explain the purpose of the call and the interview begins.  Here’s what I learn.

First, age.  She’s about 60.  She’s either retired fully or she’s thinking about retiring or leaving her present job and working from home.  Why?  Most often, she says the commute is killing her; or she’s bored being retired and needs something productive to do.  Retirement isn’t what it’s cracked up to be!  One of the things I keep hearing is that these people really want to keep busy, but not just to be active for activity’s sake, but also to be productive.  That is, they want to make some sort of contribution.  They want to give back to the profession that sustained them for so long.  Also, they are proud of their accumulated knowledge.  They like the work; it’s challenging.  Contrary to the perennial stereotype of the bored and boring insurance agent, they are not bored.  Please forgive me, but I always think of Woody Allen in “Sleeper,” where he’s committed some infraction or other and is condemned to being locked in a basement overnight with a deadly dull insurance salesman.  No, our applicant enjoys the work: she finds it interesting, varied, engrossing.  So much for the popular misrepresentation of insurance as numbingly dull and repetitive.  So, I’m actually learning something here.

Our applicant speaks well; she’s articulate—even without a BA. Well, now that I brought that up, what about her education?  Our composite graduated from High School in the 1970s and went right to work in insurance–no college, too busy.  Her first job, age 18, was as a receptionist or file-clerk in an agency.  She fell in love with the mystique of the profession and its complexities; she’s delighted by the opportunity to help people, to get the customers safe and sound, protected.  She has an almost maternal concern for their welfare.  She likes explaining the need for coverage to people who are totally clueless.  She can explain why they need to insure their outhouse for slips-and-falls or their moldy roof for leaks and collapses.  She educates them about liability – a scary word most people have no use for.  Let’s face it, insurance is a weird commodity: it’s abstract; it’s immaterial; you can’t see it, you can’t taste it, touch it, or smell it (one hopes anyway).  It’s something you need only when you need it, and by then it’s too late.  Life is an accident waiting to happen.  Insurance is a promise, not a thing; it’s a contract, a commitment. So, another thing I learned: insurance professionals actually do something useful for their fellow man!

Perhaps most importantly from my point of view, coming as I do from a non-insurance and somewhat skeptical background, is that the insurance profession can be as exciting to many people, as rewarding and as intellectually challenging as any other.  Insurance can be as relevant to real life.  It can also be more practical than supposedly more sophisticated professions such as business, medicine or law.  What I mean is that the people I interview are involved in puzzles and mental challenges with serious impact, such as: how to get the best coverage for vulnerable clients; where to look to market their products; how to help the client overcome their skepticism; how to keep them safe, how to juggle the often-contrasting demands of the underwriters, the agents and the policy-holders. ‘It is no easy balance,’ as we say in cultural anthropology. It’s a real challenge, and one that I think sharpens the mind. My conclusion: Insurance people are awesome! – David Gilmore

Making Wahves

This post is part of our Making Wahves series that highlights members of the WAHVE team.

Movement and Memory: The Importance of Staying Active as We Age

 

We all know that physical activity leads to healthier bodies and overall improved wellness—from walking to yoga, weight training to swimming, our bodies and outlook are bolstered by exercise. Recent developments in neurological research studies suggest that exercise benefits not just our bodies and mood but our minds as well, specifically the vigor and health of our memory. As reported in the NYT, a recent neurological study found exercise augmented memory, “even in the face of stress, by bulking up […] synapses and buffering the negative effects that stress otherwise would have had on those neural connections.” The implication for humans is compelling. All of us deal with stressful events, many of us chronic stressors, and when we do, our brain’s capacity to communicate slows, compromising our efficiency at memory storage and recall. Exercise, it seems, can counteract that slowed functioning by “bolstering communication between brain cells.” Essentially, we can override the damaging effects of stress and anxiety to our memory by getting active.

As of December 2017, a poll by Gallup found that nearly 80 percent of Americans feel stress frequently or sometimes every single day, with 41 percent saying they don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish their tasks. While those statistics are invitation enough for us to reexamine our culture’s relationship to work and stress, they’re clearly an indication that chronic stress is an inarguable part of American life, particularly work. While we at WAHVE are proponents of the landscape of work changing for the better—shifting to smarter hiring and retention practices, as well as a more efficient and diversified workplace that leverages talent across geographies, demographics, and generations—we also know that change takes time, and that while we can’t change what’s passed, we can shape the past’s impact on our present through daily healthy choices. With that in mind, consider counteracting cumulative stress and sharpening that memory with exercise that’s particularly compatible for older adults, focusing on strength building, muscle mass retention, agility and balance:

  1. Yoga – While it’s low-impact and gentle on your joints, yoga requires you leverage your whole body’s strength, improving balance, core stability and flexibility.
  2. Swimming – Another low-impact form of exercise, swimming is excellent aerobic exercise that will strengthen your cardiovascular fitness and muscles.
  3. Strength Training – A hallmark of the aging body is decreased bone density and muscle mass. Weight training strengthens both your bones and muscles and helps improve your body’s capacity for burning fat.
  4. Walking – Getting out for a brisk walk benefits your lungs, heart, and whole musculoskeletal system. Finding time to walk can often be social too, which is a bonus—meet up with friends, join your partner for a stroll, or enjoy a walk with the grandkids.

 How do you stay active? If you’ve recently taken up exercise, have you experienced an improvement in your energy or memory since taking it up? Share in the comments below!

Working With a Wahve – Am I Doing This Right??!

 

A few things to think about when hiring a wahve

Every so often a prospective client will approach WAHVE and ask – how should I work with a wahve if I decide to hire one? It struck me as an odd question the first time I heard it. After all, a wahve is a contracted employee who is eager to fulfill a role and contribute to the company they’ve been hired by.

But after discussing this topic a few times I have a much greater appreciation for the question. I thought it would be good to share the following for anyone else wondering:

  • Interaction – interacting with a wahve will be like any other hire you make. There may be lots of contact initially for onboarding, training, team introductions, etc. Eventually, the level of interaction you or your team has with the wahve will be dictated by the type of work they are doing and how often it’s necessary to connect with them regarding new work, provide feedback on work completed, or update them on general team/company information.
  • Workload – you know your company best. You most likely have a good idea of how long it should take someone to complete various tasks and projects. Wahves are an eager bunch and they desire to meet the same realistic expectations you’ve set for your employees doing similar work.
  • Time off – yes, wahves will need time off. Perhaps unlike your employees, time off taken by a wahve is unpaid. Therefore, they may want to make up a missed hour or two so they can keep their general number of weekly hours at a steady amount. When they do need vacation time, they’ll want to know someone else in the office will help cover for them. This may be no different from how the employees in your office provide back up to each other when on vacation.
  • Workflow – this may be the one area requiring special attention. Some clients haven’t had a remote worker or haven’t envisioned using one. How will you get work to the wahve? If files aren’t kept electronically or the agency management system is really just a very expensive desktop decoration, it will be almost impossible to use a wahve. The best workflows happen seamlessly via the use of management system’s activities, network drives, front end scanning, etc. Since you know your internal set up better than anyone, spend some time contemplating how workflows will be executed and the rest will often fall into place.

To boil it all down – it’s simple: work with a wahve just as you do with your employees. Include them in your calls, meetings, etc. Share your culture with them. Don’t forget to include them in announcements, updates, or team fun. Set regular check-in appointments with them just as you might your employees. Just because you may not run into them in the break room, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like to get an email wishing them a good weekend.

WAHVE is here to help support you and your wahve. Our team isn’t just focused on finding the best vintage talent for you. In fact, we pride ourselves on assisting with a smooth onboarding of your wahve by offering initial IT support, relationship management, and ongoing check-ins. As for the rest, you really can’t go wrong if  you  keep all the above in mind!

Elizabeth Kordek, CPCU Senior Placement Specialist

The Importance of Connectedness

 

Spring has, true to form, come in like a lion, especially on the East Coast! Especially when spring begins feeling so much like the chilly winter months, many of us find ourselves stuck in hibernation mode and slow to get back into the swing of things: staying indoors, being less active, and keeping more to ourselves. For many, the winter months’ impact on our ability to get out, see others, and stay engaged, can perpetuate feelings of loneliness and lack of connection. While spring’s gift of warmer temperatures and growing daylight makes it exponentially easier to get outside and reconnect with everybody from old friends to new coworkers, there are some simple steps any one of us—employers and employees, both remote and in-office—can put into practice all year long to stay better connected and less lonely. A recent piece on relieving loneliness in work culture aptly describes these tools for maintaining healthy connection and socially positivity no matter the season:

  1. Take advantage of digital social tools to strengthen relationships.

“Sitting alone in front of a screen all day may be the root of isolation, but that’s also where you find some of the most powerful tools to bring people together” says author and founder of Acceleration Partners, Matt Wool. Leverage social tools so that remote employees can communicate regularly, confer support, and publicly share positive thoughts and congratulations with each other as individuals. When employees feel seen and known, there’s no place for loneliness. A bonus to this is that the act itself of encouraging and praising forges connection: “Letting someone else know that you value them is a great bonding experience. This helps keep the virtual high-fives going, as it motivates employees to pay it forward.”

  1. Prioritize communication via video

Using video chats and meetings frequently offers numerous benefits that combat loneliness and foster connectedness. We communicate a lot through body language and vocal inflection, which is made possible face-to-face conversations done via video, allowing employees to avoid the “disconnectedness caused by miscommunication, which can damage working relationships and increase feelings of isolation.” On top of that, feeling fully present in video meetings increases employees’ and employers’ engagement and makes it possible everyone to benefit from a feeling of team coherence and unity.

  1. Support in-person connection

For remote workers, this might look like “hiring hubs” which enable employees working in a given geographical area “to meet if they want to collaborate or just interact socially with their colleagues,” but this idea applies to in-office employers and employees as well. Don’t think that just because workers sit by each other in cubicles that they feel connected—fostering meaningful interaction that allows employees to work together productively in person and also get connected socially will decrease isolation and boost your work culture’s social positivity.

  1. Hire the right talent

Use unbiased tools that help you assess and hire people who are good candidates for your company’s work culture, whether you employ remote workers or not. When employees have clear expectations of the degree of interaction, pace of work, and other dynamics of the work environment, and you’re mutually agreed they’re a good fit, your workforce is poised to be engaged, collaborative, and productive, no matter whether they’re sitting in a cubicle or working in their remote home office.

Appreciating the spring season’s natural affinity for positivity and connectedness, it’s important to remember that humans need personal connection and meaningful interaction all year long. Thankfully, as remote workers and employers, we have practical steps that help each other stay resilient and engaged, combating isolation and fostering connectedness all year long.