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This weekend I'm going ‘out out’ to meet 20+ fellow members of an online content coaching group I joined last New Year as a lockdown number 5-million-and-forty-two treat to myself.
There's only one other member I have met in person as far as I can recall, and some of the group I've not even seen on a Zoom call. We're staying over two nights at a Youth Hostel in Southern England which is about a 3 ½ hour drive for me.
I don't think I'm the only one who thinks this is going to be a totally ‘out there’ experience (an actual Youth Hostel, me!?)
Going out after such a long time of relative isolation to meet relative strangers can be quite daunting.I am prepared.
I had a practice session.
Six of us met for afternoon tea in the gorgeous City of York a couple of weekends ago. Organised by as it happens the same person as I know in this other group, but I digress.
Most of the group had not met each other, except in Zoom/Facebook Rooms I had organised in my free small business support group Co-works Canteen. Even so, I was a little anxious as well as excited to be meeting them.
I need not have worried.
Because the marvellous thing is, even only meeting somebody on Zoom room, it feels like you know them already when you meet them in person.The Hybrid Advantage
With hybrid working, networking and service delivery becoming normalised post-Covid (I was already a fan – btw hybrid meaning partly online and partly offline) yes, I agree it's important for us to understand how dynamics can alter between in person meeting and Zoom meetings.
Yet, we should not be surprised that in fact an online experience is not vastly different to meeting someone in person.
We might not be able to shake hands or hug (or a peck on the cheek where appropriate) but being face to face over a screen leaves just enough distance to maintain dignity, without losing a lot of the social prompts that we subconsciously seek out.
I'm sure that behaviouralists will say that subtleties of body language, scents, sub- or super-sonic sound are lost. I'm sure that's right.
But for people like me who have a hidden disability, the whole going out out to networking, deal with meetings in unusual places many miles/hours’ drive away from home or even to work in an office, can all prove disabling in themselves (imposed upon me, rather than it being my problem).
The online world has opened up many possibilities for people who could not necessarily fit 'standard' working life around their complex home lives or health needs.Problem Medication
For me, travel can be an issue, so when I go on my visit to the South of England this weekend I will be driving myself and I will be driving myself alone in my car. This allows me to take breaks at the moment that I wish to do so without any responsibility for anybody else, or indeed having to rely on somebody else to be able to pull over at the precise moment I need them to.
I often medicate to help me get out out. This is fine for a weekend away when I'll give myself a few days of energy boosting time off, but when it's a daily occurrence in terms of travel or meetings and going out, taking medicines is not a way to live all the time, just to be ‘normal’!
Being able to work in a hybrid way helps me get over pain and discomfort practically rather than medicinally - using things like heat pads and a light amount of pain relief that otherwise wouldn't necessarily give enough cover if I was out and about working, meaning I would be needing to take strong pain relief instead with associated side effects.
Whilst a lot of networking has gone from online to in person now, and I have been trying to get to some of the face to face events, this isn't always possible for me.
I therefore relish opportunities to continue with online networking with a number of organisations across the UK and to continue with relaxed get togethers - not business - just people who like each other going out for a cuppa/Prosecco!
This is still a teeny back of the mind concern for me, that there will be occasions I feel I am letting the group down if I can't make a meetup, but nothing like the ones where you feel there is a requirement to ‘perform’.
Life and society have changed so much since March 2020. I do believe a positive outcome of a terrible time is that there is more room for us to be who we are.Enabled - NOT disabled
Whatever our uniqueness – it is a strength NOT a weakness.
No matter what your preferred way of working or networking, let's take the lessons learned from COVID forward, and give ourselves permission to do things which suit US and not have to fit around social ‘norms’.
Not to disable.
Think of me as I drive down the M1 and back. It will be worth it just to meet the marvellous individuals who have shared online learning and laughter over the past 12 months plus.
PS I WON’T be reporting back – what happens in the Youth Hostel, stays in the Youth Hostel…
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