A silent and almost invisible damaging side effect of COVID-19, and the (necessary) social distancing, is the divide it is creating between the young and the old - as well as those located in and out of 'hot spots'.
This is becoming more evident as restrictions start to ease and some parts of the community return to a new type of normal, while other parts of the community continue to lock down for their safety.
Over the last couple of months I have witnessed the divide first hand.
Last month my 79yr old dad took part in his band’s practice via Zoom while the rest of the (younger) band mates assembled at a house. This is a band my dad started many years ago and it has grown to be a great community group that not only provides friendship but great entertainment.
In consultation with dad, we had decided it would be sensible for him to join via video due to the small space they were practicing in and the amount of people attending (all within the guidelines though).
Of course the reality of a band playing together while one person joins in from another location is far from ideal.
It was heartbreaking to watch dad left out of the conversation, hear about another practice they had had without him because they ‘didn’t want to risk his health’, play new songs they hadn’t told him about and be ignored while the group had a great time at the other end of the line. In fact at times it seemed like they completely forgotten he was on the other end of the line, despite him talking to them.
While the right intentions were there, the delivery left a lot to be desired.
This gap reinforced a comment a friend had made earlier in the week regarding the divide it was creating between her and younger colleagues.
While she continued to work from home and only take part in activities she felt safe to do, she watched as millennial colleagues started to work from the office (in staggered shifts) and socially catch up on work matters.
In her words, ‘as a middle aged woman you feel invisible anyway but this is making me even more invisible’.
At a time when people are isolated and craving connection, this invisible divide has far reaching implications on confidence, sense of self, sense of purpose and sense of community.
While social distancing will need to continue, and for a longer period for the older and vulnerable community, it doesn’t mean they should be left out.
Just because someone can’t attend in person or is joining via video, it doesn’t mean they should be excluded.
Be mindful and sensitive to this.
Managing live and virtual teams, equally and simultaneously, needs to be a key focus and responsibility for leaders.
Don't leave your virtual team members out in the cold.
Georgie Stayches is Founder and Chief Engagement Officer of Fetching Events & Communications, a boutique agency specialising in event management, communications and volunteer management. Fetching Events & Communications specialises in working with NGOs, NFPs, peak bodies, associations and community groups.