Virtual Relationship Building During Covid-19
The setbacks of COVID-19 – social distancing, lockdowns and stay at home orders, working remotely, often from home, with children and a range of distractions – has created a huge social experiment in how people overcome challenges to get the job done. We asked some Brunellers to give us the inside view of their experiences during this time.
As a Brunel Account Manager, a large part of Meena Sundaresan’s role was meeting new contacts for relationship-building.
Q: When the stay-at-home order first came into force, how did you adapt initially?
I made sure that my family was safe and that they had everything they needed. After that my first priority was to make sure I had all my IT equipment in order. I’m fortunate to have a home office with a desk and monitor; but I wanted it to feel like my desk at the Brunel office. I purchased some aromatherapy lotion (which I always have at my office workstation) and created a DIY standing desk with some old computer boxes. Then it was a matter of plugging in my Surface and I was off and running, business as usual!
Q: As remote working has continued, how have you changed your schedule? What lessons have you learned?
I have learned to create my own schedule. I am a morning person, so I start work early, around 7am. I try to get a workout or yoga session in beforehand to set myself up for the day. While first working from home, I used to aim to break for lunch, like I did while working in the office, but once I get a good rhythm going I kept working through lunch. Now I take regularly scheduled breaks, with the help from Alexa reminding me it's break time. Walking helps my mood and gets me energized after standing in one place for hours.
Q: What were the biggest impacts to your role in recruiting and relationship building?
Not being able to see clients face to face anymore. At the very beginning of the stay-at-home orders, most of my client managers were busy dealing with plans for their own workforce. It was difficult for them to make time for me, understandably so! But as we all started to settle in to this new normal, my clients and I were able to schedule virtual meetings. I had one client express, “It’s nice to talk to an adult after homeschooling my kids all morning.” COVID has leveled the playing field when it comes to new relationships. It’s impacting everyone, one way or another, and it’s a warm introduction to ask how they’re holding up with life at home. In that sense, this has shifted relationships – everyone is more caring and concerned about one another.
Q: What have you missed most during this new normal?
The gym. At Brunel, we had access to a gym. However, I purchased a bicycle and now take the dog on walks and hikes, but I still miss lifting weights! The gym was a social part of my life, just one of the many social activities that have been put on hold. A Zoom workout class is a great substitute, but just not the same as being at the gym.
Q: What tactics have you used to keep yourself mentally healthy?
I have taken up yoga again. I’ve always had an intermittent relationship with yoga; never wanting to commit to attending a class after or before work. Now, in response to Covid-19, Black Swan Yoga and other yoga studios have online classes available on Zoom, so I get to stream a class every day first thing in the morning, without leaving my house.
I have also realized how much sunlight and fresh air affects my mood. Before I start work, I open all my windows and make it a point to go outside at least once during my work-from-home day. On the rare days, I am unable to get outside during the day, when I do step outside I feel like a plant coming back to life.
Q: What have been the biggest surprises?
How much I love the outdoors! I never used to go on hikes or bike rides, because I would get home late and just didn’t really want to venture out again. Now that I don't have a commute, I find that I have more daylight hours to enjoy. I have learned that I absolutely love hiking, biking and long walks. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like bugs or snakes, but there’s something so restorative about going on a hike and just listening to nature, or going on a bike ride and whipping past people with the wind in your face.
Q: Can you describe the ways in which you’ve helped others?
I have started to deliver groceries and the occasional cake to family members who live nearby. At work, it’s been a matter of staying in touch with all my contacts – checking to ensure everyone is well, seeing how we can help keep the economy moving. There are going to be some staffing challenges when businesses start hiring again in full force, which is why our sales and recruitment team are working towards solutions to address those challenges.
Q: What are you looking forward to, as we start to think about returning to the office?
I’m excited to see everyone in the office again and I’m excited to get back out to see my clients.
Q: This challenge has tested us all. What have you learnt about yourself? How has this experience changed the way you work?
I didn’t think I would like working from home. I’m such a “people person” and I really thrive being out on site. But I now really enjoy working from home. I enjoy scheduling my day how I want and feeling more in control. I’m much more productive and I’m getting the work done – I have signed a brand new client during this stay-at-home order. That makes me feel like we are really contributing to getting the economy moving.
Q: What is the one thing you intend to continue with, from your COVID-19 routine?
Being outside! I will try to spend a lot more time outside moving forward. I love my new bike and I’m excited to venture out and find new places to hike.
Q: If you could go back to day 1 of remote working now, what advice would you give to yourself?
Have some patience with everyone – yourself, your teammates, family, clients and contractors. Everyone is impacted by the same experiences you’re going through and everyone is adjusting as best they can. If you want a chat, or need someone to bounce ideas with, call someone! If you are feeling lonely, pick up the phone and make a connection with someone. Social interaction can be just as impactful online.
For questions on upcoming projects, hiring needs or career advice, please reach out to one of our experienced Account Managers.
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