Physical distancing, not social distancing at MARC USA


Well, we’re officially one week into social distancing at MARC USA, and like everyone else, learning to adjust to our “new normal” as an agency. We’re fortunate to work in an industry where HOW we work has always been more powerful than WHERE we work, and even though it’s been an adjustment for some, technology like Microsoft Teams has enabled us to stay connected via video and chat (literally and figuratively).

That said, the phrase “social distancing” seems a bit disconnected from what we need as a society today, don’t you think? “Physical distancing” is a more appropriate way to describe it. Shelter in place. Stay at home. Maintain a minimum of six feet from others. No gatherings of more than 10 people at a time.

These are all “physical” things that are critical to our safety and flattening the curve. But the social part? We need that more than ever if we’re going to get through this. And the workplace is no different. 

Think about the day-to-day interactions we have with our coworkers. Ones that up until now, we’ve probably taken for granted. Saying good morning when we walk through the door. Talking about what we did over the weekend. Grabbing a coffee with a colleague to catch up on a recent Netflix binge. Going to lunch as a team or just laughing together at something funny someone said or did. Celebrating successes and working through challenges side-by-side in a team meeting.

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It’s the culmination of these seemingly trivial interactions that feed us as people, our relationships with one another, and our agency culture; a culture that is more critical than ever before. Yes technology is an enabler, but it’s our people (and the culture they’ve contributed to) that will keep us strong and allow us to thrive. It requires concerted effort every single day. And like any good culture, it’s everyone’s job to feed it. 

Say good morning via live chat. Ask your co-workers what they did over the weekend in a team message thread. Recognize an accomplishment or client success with a celebratory gif. Talk about your Netflix binge (over coffee) in a video chat. Share a funny video, picture or story about how you’re getting through the day. Call out a peer who went above and beyond. Tell a dad-joke (and wait for the eye-roll gifs in the chat thread). Conduct daily stand-ups via video conference (not telephone – video). Check in with coworkers who may be alone and need social interaction more than they’d let you know. 

Keep being human. Keep communicating. Don’t let social distancing make you less-social.

And don’t forget that we all face different challenges as we adjust to our new home office environments. Be open to new ways of working and be patient with one another. A 9-5 work schedule is going to be much more difficult to maintain for a parent of two young children with no childcare support. Be understanding, flexible and emphatic, adjusting as needed to accommodate these challenges.

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This is going to get harder before it gets easier, yet here we are, one week under our belts and ready for the next one. At MARC USA, we’ve seen how others dance, pictures of proud parents with their adorable children, and just how resilient we are to keep creativity and connection going in unprecedented and uncertain times.

Thanks to our people, our culture, and the technology to enable them. 

One of my colleagues said it best. “Isn’t funny that being apart has brought us all closer together?” I’ve never heard words more true.

Jon Galatis is an SVP, Group Account Director at MARC USA