10 ways to stay social at a distance

Shutterstock_605728811To limit the spread of COVID-19, we all have to do our part. For the majority of Americans, this means working or schooling from home, limiting all discretionary travel – including social trips – and avoiding groups of 10 or more.

For some, a few days at home may be a welcome break from the daily grind. But if not managed correctly, increased time at home during these stressful, uncertain times can take a toll on your mental and physical health. The American Psychological Association reports that social isolation can lead to poor sleep, poor cardiovascular health and depressive symptoms, as well impairing our ability to focus and manage emotions. While staying home and practicing social distancing are critical to reducing the spread of the virus, it’s also important to take care of your mental health.

One of the best ways to do this is to stay connected with your family, friends and colleagues. To keep that connectivity while you’re at home, the AICPA Insights team offers these suggestions to help you stay social – at a distance.

1. Virtual water cooler / happy hour – One of our favorite aspects of working in an office is impromptu bonding time with coworkers. That’s harder to do when separated, but with a little planning, it can still happen. Set up 10 or 15-minute video or phone calls with colleagues to chit-chat while you enjoy your morning water or coffee.

At the end of the workday, shoot the breeze from a safe distance at a virtual happy hour. Remotely bring your coworkers together to talk about your day, your favorite drink or anything else. Please note this happy hour is BYOB (bring your own beverage) and has the potential to evolve into virtual karaoke if it goes on long enough.

If you miss your neighbors, coordinate a time after the workday where you can walk out your front doors and toast each other from a safe distance!

2. Bond over food – Many people find that food can lift their spirits during stressful times (hence the term “comfort food”). Organize a digital potluck where you can exchange your favorite recipes with colleagues and try something new. You can kick it up a notch by having a co-worker share their favorite recipe via video conference from their own kitchen. Everyone else can follow along for step-by-step cooking instructions.

Cooking not your thing? Support your local restaurants with a digital dinner date! Many restaurants are struggling to the point that they have to furlough staff or even let them go entirely. Offer your support by ordering from their delivery menu. Take it a step further by coordinating with a group of friends to all order from the same restaurant at the same time. Once all the food has been delivered to each location, hop on a video chat and enjoy your meal together.

3. Start a club to share what you’re watching / reading – Don’t know what to watch? Have a great suggestion? Start a group where you can share your favorite TV and movie recommendations. You can even set up calls to discuss and review selections together. If you want to get really creative, coordinate starting the movie at the exact same time. That way you can live chat throughout the movie. There are several great apps, extensions and websites that can help you sync up streams across the Internet.

Now is also a great time to finally pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read. While you’re at it, why not make it a group read? Reach out to a few friends and colleagues to see if they want to join. As you work through the story together, you can schedule times to hop on a call and discuss your thoughts on the most recent chapter.

4. Enjoy the arts with a night at the opera or virtual museum tour – Seize the opportunity to watch some of the world’s greatest operatic performances from the comfort of your own couch with free streamed concerts from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. The “Nightly Met Opera Streams” begin at 7:30 p.m. ET each night on the Met's homepage. The performances remain available for 20 hours and are also available on the Met Opera’s On-Demand apps.

You can also experience the best museums, from London to Seoul. Many top museums from around the world are offering free online tours to help people cope with staying home. Go alone for a relaxing and personal experience, or coordinate with friends to take a remote tour together and share in the world’s greatest art.

5. Go on safari with the Cincinnati Zoo – Every day at 3:00 pm ET, the Cincinnati Zoo invites people to join them on Facebook Live for a fun and educational tour. Each live broadcast highlights one of their amazing animals and includes an activity you can do from home. The first episode featured the world’s most famous (and adorable) hippo, Fiona.

6. Team trivia break – Ever wanted to host your own trivia show? Now’s your chance. Get a group together at a set time each week for a fun trivia competition via video call. Participants can ‘buzz’ in by typing a letter into the chat function of your group meeting. Whoever got their name into the chat window first can then give their answer on video. Each week, the rotating host gets to choose the topics and questions. Play for a prize or just play for fun!

7. Meet the family video calls – Embrace being home with your family during the workday and schedule a video call to introduce your cohabitants to your coworkers. Pets are absolutely included and strongly encouraged.

8. Virtual jam session – If you’ve got a guitar or keyboard lying around, team up with friends on a video conferencing platform to host a virtual jam session. Play for yourselves or invite more friends to join in for some free live entertainment.

9. Home fitness club – Physical fitness is important for keeping anxiety at bay and maintaining a sense of normalcy and well-being. You don’t need a gym to be fit — get your workout in at home. If you like being led by an instructor, there are a wide range of paid and free online streaming services to choose from. Get a group together, choose a program and coordinate a time each day you all plan to do the workout from home. After each class, you can message each other about your favorite (or least favorite) part.

10. Be good company – Many people would really just appreciate someone to talk with. Reach out to friends and family to check-in, catch-up and keep them company. You can even help out those with kids by volunteering to read their children a story via a video call while they take what is likely a much-needed and much-appreciated break.

Don’t want to talk on the phone? Consider sending a good old-fashioned handwritten letter. Something about the experience of writing things out by hand makes it feel more considerate and personal. Sure, it takes a while to get there, but the effort makes you think much more about what you want to say and how best to say it.

Bonus: help a neighbor in need – In times like these, taking care of each other is very important. If you’re low-risk and up-to-date on your current local guidelines for going outside, consider helping an at-risk neighbor in need of a grocery delivery. To add to the social aspect, call them from the store and allow them to walk you through their list. Your contribution helps foster a strong sense of community, and that benefits both yourself and the whole.

You may sometimes feel like you’re in this alone, but these suggestions should remind you that we’re all in this together. Taking care of yourself, your friends and your family all help make for a stronger community. If you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has specific resources to help cope with coronavirus anxiety.

Association Staff