I woke up today and I wanted to write a blog post sharing my best advice in connecting with people remotely, engaging teams virtually and keeping your teams motivated in their projects whilst working from home.

Then I realised that actually, before we can “talk business”, we need to acknowledge that a lot of us are feeling pretty lonely right now.

So, here we are. All of us together, feeling lonely. But I know quite well that we’re having our own individual experiences. Feeling like we’re walking around in some kind of comic written by a 8-year-old where first there was this virus, then there was no school, then the zombies came.

Some are confronted with this feeling like a living nightmare, some of us are stressed out beyond what we previously thought we could handle, and some are leaning strongly into our family and friends because that’s the only place that feels safe enough.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of getting through this crisis, no matter how your life has changed overnight, I know it’s changed. It’s changed for all of us and in more than one way.

Experiencing change is so hard, even for the change management pros, and it can feel so isolating. The little voice of change isn’t always the happy one, let alone when change comes from a world crisis.

Sometimes the voice of change says “you’re going to have to do this alone”, or “don’t let anyone see how much you’re struggling”, or “don’t be a burden”, or “things will never be the way they used to be”, or “I need to remain professional”.

It’s so isolating to feel like you have to face the weight of this incredibly rough time without much help and without being able to physically see people. I often feel like I need to be the one who should first put on my “I am capable” cape and show up and DO THIS THING! *knocking elbows instead of high fiving*.

But also…

We’re in some emotionally charged days. My heart is broken in watching small businesses close, arts organisations having to slash salaries, mums crying wondering how they will be able to buy food, private renters panicking about being evicted, the elderly in care homes not being able to see their families. And on a very local level, which now seems SO insignificant, it hurts me to have to celebrate my son’s birthday just the 4 of us, with no party with his grandmother and not even a trip to the zoo. Watching people have to suffer greatly through losses or just minor changes to their daily routines, makes you realise of simply how this change is deeply uncomfortable and deeply unsettling.

With change comes some grief.

What we need is to agree to put our guards down. Not worry about “being professional” 24/7. To not need to put our “let’s do this thing” mask on.

Let’s agree to grieve together.

It’s hard to be stuck between “I can do this!” and “I’m personally struggling “. And again: that’s another lonely place to be.

I’m personally struggling reading the internal and external communications of Arts and Culture organisations everywhere which seem so impersonal, so “professional”, so calculated. Can we just agree to talk to each other, business or not, on a human level? Can we agree to make this situation less lonely and more personable? Can we agree to swap the suit for track suits and swap the “Dear Sir” for “Fellow Friend”?

That are many positives this change will bring out in businesses who survive this crisis. One of them being a stronger sense of community, of pulling together to get through this, and hopefully hierarchy barriers being broken down to show that we are all human, we all feel lonely and we can all achieve more and feel safer in an ever-changing world when we talk to each other on a human to human level.

No matter what journey you’re on right now, I acknowledge that you are probably feeling a little lost and lonely. Go and acknowledge the same with your immediate colleagues. Maybe even with your upline manager. Why not? They might be struggling too.

Let’s agree to grieve together and be human together, even when physically apart.

We can build our businesses through it and advance on our projects through this, without talking business for now.

Here’s to new ways of working, here’s to lessons learned, and here’s to being in this together.

Gabriela Gandolfini
By Gabriela Gandolfini
Gabriela Gandolfini is Head of Visitor Experience at the Royal Opera House and a freelance Coach for Performance (CfPAC). Gabriela was previously Head of Audience Experience and Deputy Director for Visitor Experience at the National Theatre, and Centre Manager for the Barbican Centre. Gabriela is also a family and lifestyle blogger.
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