Guest blog by Jill McKinney from Sunderland Software City

This short term situation has forced people to change the way they interact socially and professionally, having to stand 2 metres apart means that people are now conscious and respectful of others personal space, hand- shakes & hugs are being exchanged with emojis or face time air kisses which is difficult especially for loved ones living apart or for those that are suffering loss etc.

I think the short – term effects of this will have a long- term impact, there will be more consideration before shaking hands, or hugging people as we greet them. I also think there will be more people choosing not to travel unnecessarily and instead choosing a dial in option if its available (& I think there will be a lot more dial in options).

As a nation we have adapted remarkably well to this “new” way of working and in a lot of cases proven to be more effective.

There are a lot of networking opportunities available all be it virtual however I think people are for the most part happy with that for the short term, although “Zoom fatigue” is now a thing to consider “It’s almost like you’re emoting more because you’re just a little box on a screen I’m just so tired.”

I think in the rush to get things on line and in an attempt to do “Business as usual” the impact of the hours of screen time on peoples energy levels, concentration ability and not to mention eye strain hasn’t necessarily been thought through, where once would have been an enjoyable networking session where you can freely move about from person to person you find yourself looking at a screen with a sea of people’s faces, only one person can speak at once, questions need to be thought through and timed so that you’re not speaking over people and your point isn’t missed.

Networking in this way does have some benefits though I mean there’s no danger of getting stuck in a conversation with someone that’s boring you to tears, you still get to meet and hear from new people and you get an opportunity to talk about what YOU want to talk about, and if you lose interest half way through you can always fake WiFi failure.

I believe that once lockdown is over and we are all released back into the wild, people will be more mindful & strategic about the events they attend making calculated decisions around the necessity/cost of the travel weighed up with the expected outcome off physically attending.

One of the byproducts of the restricted travel has been the affect this has had on the environment and the air quality. I’d like to think that people will take this in to consideration when they are making their decision about whether to travel or not, after all we made this happen by following government guidelines, it would be a massive shame if we reversed it because we felt that we have to get back in the car, train, bus to get to an event or meeting that could have been quite easily done virtually.

That said there is still the need for physical interaction, it’s natural for us human beings to be together, we don’t usually function too well when we are isolated from others, and this can have massive implications for our mental well-being – Its massively important that we look after our mental health whilst working from home!

Networking events will always be a staple of the business world and I have no doubt that when COVID-19 has passed there will be an event happening most days, we may find that these events are made more accessible by default with organisers offering a face to face & virtual option, either way people will attend, people will chat to each other and contacts will be exchanged.

Make sure you have a plan before you attend, speak to Jeni Smith from Networking KnoWho for advice on how to get the most out of your physical or virtual networking event

Ps. Zoom social will never replace the enjoyment of meeting your work colleagues in the pub 🙂