How Social Distancing Can Bring Us Closer Together

Updated: May 21

By Dr. Victoria Mattingly

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on March 14, 2020.

In response to the global outbreak of the coronavirus, the CDC is recommending we steer clear of one another for the time being, otherwise known as "social distancing."

Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.

This prescribed social distancing is especially difficult for an organizational psychologist like myself, building a career on the premise that bringing people together leads to a better, happier, more productive workforce.

Businesses and leaders have needed to make difficult decisions all week, many of which come down to the personal assessment of:

How seriously should we be taking the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?

As an entrepreneur, I have the privilege of being able to work from anywhere in the world without disrupting business as usual. Most of my clients (and the vast majority of U.S. companies for that matter) do not have this luxury.

Over the last week in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, mandatory work-from-home policies were enacted, travel bans were enforced, and many big, important events and conferences have been cancelled.

Is all the precaution worth it?

As of this moment (4p ET on Friday, March 13th), no case of COVID-19 has been verified in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, yet the entire city is shutting down.

And yet, it's not a matter of IF the virus will arrive in Pittsburgh, but WHEN. And we all need to be willing to shift our reactive mindset (fix the problem once it arrives) to a proactive one (prevent the problem from happening in the first place...or at least intervene before it gets even worse).

We must choose prevention on behalf of others over the selfishness of being personally unaffected (which may itself be a fallacy of self-delusion...but that's an article for another day).