As I find myself, like many of you, weathering the challenges of social and physical distancing, I can’t help but reflect on the topic of online, onsite, or both for social interactions. What I mean by that is if we as a society should be moving to more online, onsite, or if we should be striking a balance and do both. For me, I highly recommend striking a balance with both and I believe what we’ve experienced during this COVID-19 global crisis is that both in person interaction and online interaction are both very important to every race, gender, and generation. They both serve a very important purpose. One offers solidarity (in person) and the other offers flexibility (digital).

However, prior to the current pandemic environment, the pendulum appeared to be swinging way towards digital while the significance of in person interactions seemed to be downplayed. Interestingly enough, if you’ve been following all the media coverage on the pandemic in the US related to the challenge leaders have had getting everyone to heed the advice from the medical professionals to practice social distancing, we’ve learned that in person interaction for some of us is so important, that we’re willing to risk our safety for it. In fact, this was the case worldwide as we saw states and nations having to take extreme measures ranging from issuing shelter-in-place mandates to complete lockdowns for some nations. For someone who has always valued in person social interaction and relationships, I’m not surprised by it, and I’m hoping all of us will reflect on what we’ve learned from this experience and on how it felt when we were kept from meeting with each other in person, whether for work or personally. Going forward, how will we prioritize in person interactions in all aspects of our life?

Prior to the start of the social distancing required to help stop the spread of COVID-19, I consistently used a blend of physical and virtual platforms for my networking and reading but not for my face-to-face meetings. I didn’t engage virtual meeting platforms as often, but given that this was the only option we’ve had over the last couple of weeks for face-to-face meetings, I’ve had to use it on a daily and frequent basis. This has been good for me as I’ve now found a balance for engaging in person and online platforms for my face-to-face meetings, which I’ll continue to use for engaging and serving my team and our client partners. Here are some examples of the balance I’ve found to work best for me for engaging physical and digital platforms to help me optimize my time and achieve my goals with my networking, reading, and meetings.

Þ Networking: I’ve found that in person networking is essential for developing new relationships, growing my existing relationships, and developing social capital. I leverage online platforms like serve2perform and LinkedIn to help me continuously manage and invest in my network of relationships. Building an active and valuable network takes work and it can’t be done via social media platforms alone. An analogy that comes to mind is flying a plane. It requires physical effort to get it off the ground and into cruising altitude and then you can engage autopilot until it’s time to start to descent and land the plane. Both platforms are essential as they each serve a specific purpose and help us be more strategic and effective with our networking.

Reading: I love to read for continuous learning and I’ve learned that digital versions work for some reading and physical versions are required for other readings. For example, when I need quick access to information or if I’d like to read a brief article, then digital is always my preferred source of content. When I need to gain deep insight from other business leaders or thought leaders, I prefer physical books, articles, or journals that I can markup and jot down insights as it helps me relate to and adopt the learnings in a more accelerated manner. Both platforms are essential as they each serve a specific purpose and provide us with flexibility when consuming knowledge.

Meetings: As it relates to a balance for engaging online and onsite platforms for social interactions, I’ve found a new balance for myself during this challenging time of social distancing. My team members have all been working remotely from our homes and we’ve been using a virtual platform to stay engaged and continue to operate at full capacity. In the process, I’ve learned that connecting virtually will work for some interactions but not for all interactions. For example, I’ve learned that engaging via a virtual platform works great for a quick touchbase meeting or a quick update but not for facilitating solidarity, growing connectivity with people, group meetings that require more than an hour to complete, delivering difficult feedback, team building, or relationship building. Both platforms are essential as they each serve a specific purpose and help us better manage our time with face-to-face meetings.

As you can see, physical and digital platforms serve a very specific and important purpose for me in my networking, my reading, and my meetings. The key learning for me has been to find a balance for using both platforms for each knowing that they are both essential. With that being said, I would propose that it’s not online OR onsite, it’s online AND onsite and when we try to substitute one for the other, we learn that we don’t get the results we want and we’re not as efficient or effective in the process.

In closing, while current situations will require us to continue to engage more and more digital platforms into all aspects of our life, it's important that we also continue to prioritize and engage in personal interactions much more at work, at home, and out in our communities as soon as we are safely able to do so. We’ll soon overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, we will relax the social distancing practices, and we will carry on with our daily lives. As we emerge from our homes, I’m hopeful that the strong yearning we all have today to go out and meet with people in person will remain with us well beyond the pandemic.