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Maslow's Hierarchy Tested In Real Time

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

Are you feeling off? You may be healthy, and your basic needs of food, water and shelter may be met, but you’re still not feeling OK. You may even be working from home or at the office, but things are still off, and some days you can’t find your bearing.

We are all feeling a little "off" center right now. First the virus, then isolation, job insecurity, and now the murder of George Floyd, which has yet again uncovered racial disparities and tensions. I wrote this prior to Mr. Floyd's death and the protests, but it's still relevant - our sense of security and well-being is under attack. No wonder we're feeling "off."

If we review Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I think you see what I see. There are five levels, usually displayed in a pyramid format, which depicts "fulfilling innate human needs in priority." The bottom is physiological (food, shelter, water). Next is safety (health, safety). Next is love and belonging (social relationships with others). The fourth is esteem, and the top point is self-actualization. I will focus on Abraham Maslow's bottom three needs in context with the current climate.

We are all stuck in the

bottom two levels: physiological needs and safety needs. While our basic physiological needs of food and water may be met, most people who I know are complaining that their sleep patterns are off, and they aren’t getting enough rest.

Safety is at risk for everyone as we continue to live under the veil of the novel coronavirus. The unknown is simply scary, and until there is a solution, we will be uneasy about going out in large crowds.

Now, the crux of concern that I’m seeing with my employees is level three: love and belonging. For many people, social distancing has resulted in relationship drift. The weekend gatherings with friends and family have ceased. Movie dates and concerts are all on hold. Graduations and graduation festivities are canceled or significantly thwarted.

So how do we reconnect virtually?

There are so many tools that offices and families are using, such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, etc., and they all allow technical connectivity. However, they lack what we all need

: the human touch. And, quite frankly, too much of the virtual connection may be harmful.

I’ve been working the entire time during this pandemic, some days at home, and some days in the office alone or with a few of my administrative staff in the building. Now, I have a new term added to my vocabulary: “Zoom Fatigue."

Zoom fatigue is real, and I’ve experienced it. On any given day, by my third Zoom, I am worn out. My shoulders are tense. My head hurts, and my eyes are watering. My lower back is sore. At first, organizations and businesses held short 30-minute calls, but once people realized that we weren’t going to be able to operate in person for a while, the calls expanded to an hour or two. I even tried to participate in a five-hour virtual conference.

What was I thinking? I just can’t do it. I had to give myself permission to skip some of the conferences and professional development opportunities and allow my body and brain to recharge.

My tip for you concerning virtual meetings is to decline some invites. Skip a meeting or two. If you are on a call, I

recommend you change your surroundings by going outside and working at your patio table or from your front porch rocking chair.

Organizations are trying to pivot to virtual galas or other fundraisers. I know that we’ll see some successful and fun events, but know that it’s OK to cancel an event too. Events take time and people to do well. Virtual ones may be less costly and take fewer people, but you have to evaluate the gain — if it’s just money, then you’ve lost out on the main reason I think you should hold an event, which is to build relationships.

Instead of an event this year, take the time to personally call donors or funders and ask for their support. Better yet, ask board members or graduates of your program to make those calls, and talk about why they support your cause.

We all felt a twinge when we were faced with social distancing and lockdowns that ceased happy hours and dinners with friends. Now we’ve learned how to have virtual cocktail hours, or learned how to make a new cocktail or entrée. I’ve heard of virtual art classes too. Sure, it’s not as intimate as being in person, but it does force us to engage in a different way. You get to visit the homes (virtually) of entertainers or chat with your employee’s 4-year-old — how cool is that? We’ve all learned more about each other’s families and daily lives than before, and that’s torn down some walls, as well as office silos.

With practice we can become more comfortable with the virtual tools available and learn to set some boundaries, including the number of virtual meetings or trainings we participate in. Now that we don’t have all of those after-hours social events and dinners to attend, we can spend the time reconnecting with old friends, distant relatives and neighbors (across the fence, using social distancing of course). They don’t care that your hair is a mess or that you’ve been wearing the same leggings for two days. They’re just happy to connect (again) with you.

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Thanks, Happy Friday and God bless!

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