Knowledge and Insights
The COVID-19 quarantine has been going on in the tri-state region since the first week of March, and is nothing like we have ever experienced before. For most of us that means we’ve been home-bound for seven weeks give or take. For those of you like me, that’s a long time to be stuck in place. But in today’s world of technology, there’s no better time. Between the typical cable and dish networks, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+, podcasts, YouTube, On Demand, radio, and more, we have access to more 24-7 entertainment options than ever before. Don’t get me started on the online shopping! And it doesn’t end there, for those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home, we are always connected to the office without the cube, that 4×4/6×6/8×8 piece of real estate we call home away from home – now we’re just…home. Office communication has come full circle just in time, Microsoft Teams brought back the ‘chat’ option – a workplace version of the original AOL AIM – with a video twist and then Zoom takes that to another level giving us the ability to connect with hundreds at a time, ensuring not only are we inundated with hundreds of emails, our calendars are now packed with even more meetings than usual.
While this advanced technology has benefits, mom’s voice is there chirping in the back of my head – turn that off and get outside and play! Mom is right… mom is always right. And we have the science to back her up. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 120 minutes of free play every day and no digital media for children under two (exception video chatting), only an hour ages 2-5 and two hour limitations thereafter including creating tech-free zones in your home. There is no consensus on the safe amount of screen time for adults. Ideally, adults should limit their screen time similar to children and only use screens for about two hours a day. However, many adults spend up to 11 hours a day looking at a screen.
Given the reality of this time in our lives, we may want to convince ourselves this is ok. However, according to Psychology Today, many of us are finding ourselves exhausted from the never-ending video calls and virtual experiences. We are finding them emotionally and energetically costly, in many cases, they actually leave us feeling lonely. They go on to say, “While humans are neurodivergent in terms of sociability and interpersonal preferences, we are all sensual beings. When we encounter each other, we take in information from many senses. Certain people and their places have specific smells. Often, physical touch in one form or another is involved in an encounter. In essence, the mere physical presence of another has the power of stirring feelings and awakening all of our senses. When we connect via screens, much of this is lost.”
Another outcome from this new age of increased technology use and constant video conferencing is heightened self-awareness, especially of our physical appearance. Never have I been forced to look at myself as often as I have with video conferencing. Sometimes I find myself distracted by my own inner voice “wow you really need a haircut, is that a grey I see, how is the person or people on the other end perceiving me,” you get the idea. I know I’m not alone, in fact, a recent Zogby Analytics survey showed 59 percent of adults are more self-conscious on camera than in real life and 30 percent of those surveyed spend more than half of their video call time looking at their own face in lieu of engaging in the meeting. This makes eye contact a thing of the past – “should I look into the webcam directly, do I look at the other person on the screen, am I looking at myself too much?” – is another one of the nuances associated with video chats.
How do we survive this while not letting work productively come to a grinding halt? Getting back to Psychology Today, (1) Tend to your self – if you are feeling overwhelmed, emotionally dysregulated, or exhausted, it may be best to decline an online connection or two in order to preference some intentional connection with our own selves; (2) Consider covering the image of yourself on the screen – if you are not leading the meeting muting your video every once in a while can be good medicine for the mind; (3) Make intentional choices about what platforms you use to communicate within and who you choose to engage in them – be sensitive to dynamics like lag or pixelated images as these make our conversations more draining; (4) Consider the phone some of the time – the limited focus of a phone call may actually enhance authenticity and felt/live connection as well as providing an opportunity to participate from a more relaxing spot in -or outside- your home; and (5) Get creative about ways of increasing the authenticity and spontaneity of digital encounters – listen to music together, stretch together, have those quick 5-10 minute conversations you’d have if they had just stopped by your cube then get back to work. You can also invite your co-workers, friends and family to a virtual happy hour – have some drinks and/or play some fun games together online, which can boost your mood and help make social distancing feel a little bit easier.
Start thinking about the near future; once this is all over, what will be different for you? How can you use this experience to improve your life, your family, your business or even the world? And for goodness sake, listen to mom – get outside at least 10-15 minutes during your workday to feel the sun on your face and breathe in the fresh air!
Mercadien is available to assist with a variety of financial services to help ease the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on you and your business. For more information on the services we provide please visit our website Mercadien.com or contact Frank Pina, CPA, Managing Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-689-2319.
DISCLAIMER: This advisory resource is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute business or tax advice, and may not be used and relied upon as a substitute for business or tax advice regarding a specific issue or problem. Advice should be obtained from a qualified accountant, tax practitioner or attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where that advice is sought.