Socializing Won’t Cut It: How To Create Genuine Connection Between Team Members
We’ve navigated various changes in how, when and where we work over the last few years—remote, hybrid, at home, and now integrating back in travel (and the associated delays). Let’s pile on the current changes in outlook, resources and staffing, and it’s a wonder we don’t have whiplash. Given this uncertainty, we all long for more stability, authentic relationships and genuine connection.
These changes and stress have taken their toll on people. According to Bloomberg, on average, our workday was 3 hours longer in 2021. That’s an extra 750 hours by the end of the year! And multiple surveys have found that anywhere from 52 - 59% of workers reported feeling burned out last year (depending on the age group). For Generation X workers, many of whom are caught between longer hours, kids at home and caring for aging parents, burnout rates shot up 14% from 2020. We can’t ignore the impact on our co-workers. It’s more important than ever to find ways to reconnect.
It's Time To Bring Your Team Back Together
Whether it’s 2 hours, 4 hours, or 16 hours, remote or in-person, whether you make room for a bit of time to connect during existing meetings or schedule something separately, the most important thing is to get your people together to connect and to build relationships.
Team building has been associated with improved morale, confidence, motivation and mental health. It fosters better communication, boosts creativity, and increases productivity. And it’s a space where you can identify and explore leadership qualities.
Creating genuine connection between team members is more than just fun and games. It requires more than just socializing - which is why ‘Zoom Happy Hours’ didn’t cut it.
Connection is about being seen, heard, acknowledged and appreciated.
WEWORK’S DIRECTOR OF WORKPLACE CONNECTION
We couldn’t agree more with Lakshmi's quote, so we’re sharing some ideas of what real connection building looks like.
Seen And Heard
Explore Where People Are Right Now
Listen to their experiences with empathy and an open mind. The team isn’t the same anymore. Whether you’re integrating new members or acknowledging the profound changes brought on by the pandemic and current business climate - your team has changed. The dynamics have shifted, and everyone deserves a chance to come together and express the changes that have impacted them.
For example, maybe your events coordinator is now juggling two toddlers, reduced daycare hours and a new puppy. You used to enjoy luxuriously long coffee chats. And while she still wants to connect, she’d appreciate getting down to business while she has childcare coverage.
Understand How People Want To Work
How do team members prefer to interact, connect and collaborate now? Companies have implemented hybrid work, asynchronous work, and 4-day work weeks. Some work policies for teams are being mandated, while others have extended invitations. Folks are handling not just their own tasks but the responsibilities of open reqs or those that have been made redundant. It’s a lot to consider. Ask questions and listen to what your team members need now.
For example, maybe you had a rather brusque manager who only had a little time. Now he works alone from home and is interested in connecting but isn’t sure of the best approach when he can’t just drop by someone’s office and get some support to improve his communication style.
Acknowledged And Appreciated
Take Time To Integrate New People Into The Team
Recently, one of a client's executive teams had someone new join their team. We chose to spend 30 min of our monthly 2-hour meeting welcoming and celebrating the new team member. We went around the group, and each person shared a bit about themselves personally and professionally and what they loved about the group.
Our new member felt truly seen, heard and welcomed. She learned a lot about each person’s role and experiences and how she might leverage them. She also got a good feel for the culture and norms of the group. Because of the time spent and genuine connection made, the level of trust remained high, and the team was able to continue as a high-performing team.
Set A Vision Together
A visioning session is a wonderful chance to inspire, motivate and create buy-in about where you’re headed and how you’ll get there. You could break up into small groups and explore what’s working and what’s not. Come together to arrive at a strategy for moving forward, think through priorities, and consider team dependencies and work output.
Agree On Expectations
Due to staffing changes, things have changed, and people are handling two or three jobs. There are often longer hours and few boundaries between home and work. These changes mean expectations need to be adjusted, especially if we want to avoid burnout.
For example, discuss:
- How will work be done?
- How are deadlines handled?
- How can we accomplish what we need to while prioritizing mental health?
Include some deep listening, sharing, and some learning about how to support one another, how to set boundaries, when to say no, and what practicing self-care looks like.
Not all people may gather in the same building every day, but that doesn’t mean we need to feel overburdened, unappreciated or like just another cog in the machine. Take the time to truly see, listen to and connect with your team so you can move forward as a united group no matter where you’re working from.
We hope these ideas can help inspire you to design and facilitate an inclusive and productive environment for your team.
If you’d like help with the design, planning, and/or facilitation of a day designed to help your team members feel seen, heard, acknowledged and appreciated, we’d be happy to help with off-the-shelf options or something completely customized with different topics and modalities.