Working remotely is now the norm for the foreseeable future. But in this environment — hunched over keyboards in our homes, or home offices — we run the risk of slowly but surely hitting a “virtual slump” in our productivity and professional growth.
Some will feel it more than others, but we all need to deal with the current conditions the best way we can.
Most Americans have been more than patient in adjusting to work-home life and settled into new routines to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.
Little by little, we have adjusted to going out only for essential needs, reducing our consumption of meat and other products, learning how to master Zoom, Facebook Live, Google Hangout and other virtual work tools. Above all, we learned how to get along with others — family, roommates — all day within the same four walls.
We were initially told a two- or three-week stay at home period would flatten the curve of the transmission of coronavirus. Now, we have been hiding from normal activities for more than two months.
While the president, governors and mayors are talking about reopening the country, mostly due to economic concerns, some scientists are predicting this new normal could last throughout 2020 and well into 2021. Some companies are even planning for that possibility.
That behooves those of us in grassroots activation and advocacy communications to make the most of the hand we’ve been dealt.
Here are some ways for advocacy professionals to keep themselves sharp and their practice growing as we continue to deal with COVID-19:
Keep lines of communication going.
Err on the side of more communication, not less. Set a routine “check-in” schedule with clients or prospects and follow it. Listen to your peers challenges and offer insightful guidance.
Be open with your colleagues.
Share your thoughts, concerns, dilemmas as well as best practices through columns, blog posts, podcasts or social media posts. Pictures, videos, infographics and charts help visualize the situation.
We joined in with nearly a dozen colleagues and are about to publish an e-book on best practices in virtual advocacy and communications, with proceeds going to the American Red Cross. Collectively we hope to make the most of our time and support the overall advocacy community.
Try continuing education.
Take an online course in a subject or hobby that interests you. This is a great time to experiment and to meet new people, even if it is virtually.
Promote your own work.
Enter an awards competition, contest or challenge that showcases your work and personal strengths.
Give your time and skills, or donate to a cause you believe in — particularly those aimed at helping people adversely impacted by the pandemic. You’ll feel better for it and may meet some new connections in the process.
Catch up on reading.
Read more and new publications and books or catch movies, series and documentaries to broaden your mind and offer relaxation away from the keyboard.
Be a mentor.
Help someone find a job or an internship. Many people have been furloughed, laid off or had their internship commitment yanked.
Take up a hobby that will ease your mind and give you a break from the monotony. Remember your health and mental health during these difficult times.
Become a hub for information.
The advocacy community is hungry for self-help advice as we’re still in uncharted territory. You have a perfect opportunity with a low barrier of entry to start a podcast, video series, or virtual happy hour. If you make a mistake, don’t worry. It happens so often these days no one will judge you.
Start preparing for back to normal, whatever that look likes.
Research upcoming challenges and develop messaging and strategy documents. The new Congress and post-COVID world is going to bring many new challenges to all organizations from tax increase proposals to new regulations, now is the time to prepare.
Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C., office of Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in the West Virginia University Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.
Joshua Habursky is the Head of Federal Affairs at the Premium Cigar Association and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.