Dr. Steven takes us through his four top tips on how you can foster and maintain connection with your employees in the new normal of remote working.
When I think back on those early weeks of the pandemic, I’m always surprised to realise that I’d never previously had such a rich social life. Like many other aspects of our lives today, at that point, ‘socialising’ was done via video and through an endless stream of virtual coffees, happy hours, quizzes, and family gatherings on Zoom. I actually heard from some people for the first time in years! I spoke to my mum on the most regular basis since I’d moved to Spain over 17 years ago – “Are you well?” was the preface to most of our conversations.
Being ‘well’ relies heavily on the social aspect of our lives. In fact, social wellbeing is a distinct category in most academic frameworks that focus on mental health. Even the World Health Organisation (which has never been as prominent in the public’s consciousness as it is today) counts community contribution as one of its definitions of good mental health.
Our workplace, too, thrives as a social community. One of the biggest things the post-pandemic world has highlighted is what makes us most human – each other. Because interaction and connection are so fundamental to the very nature of being human, it can be easy to take it for granted. To make sure that we don’t, here are some ways to increase employee connection in this increasingly disconnected world.
It’s never been more important to build a habit of gratitude and sharing between staff. Try finishing each day or week with everyone sharing what they are grateful for. Maybe do an exercise where colleagues share something they value about one another. Perhaps share something about your home life, too – who doesn’t love to see a baby or a dog held up to the camera? What goofy stuff are your kids getting up to that might make your colleagues laugh? For those colleagues who live alone, this occasional feeling of ‘family’ could be really invaluable. Overall, the act of sharing builds empathy, which will strengthen the connection between employees and make your team stronger in the long-run.
It’s often said that the best way to help ourselves is to help other people. Studies show that volunteering improves mental health, so maybe now’s the time for your team to choose a charity or a community project to support? Find out if your local hospital, care home, or foodbank is on the lookout for some extra help, which you could provide remotely. Getting your team involved in volunteering can refocus everyone’s thinking on other people, which is the best way to stop thinking about ourselves too much. You will soon see that kindness – the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day – and compassion are incredibly energising for all.
Know your team and yourself
Each great team has its own unique make-up, with a diverse mix of personalities, and bolstering colleague connection, especially if you’re in a leadership position, can really help with performance. Do the introverts need more encouragement to come out of their shells? Would a one-to-one catch-up session help you find out how they’re really coping? Have you considered if the extroverts may need more team interaction than others? People may be vulnerable for different reasons. Take some time to check in with yourself, too. How mindful are you of your own behaviour, and how is that behaviour impacting others?
Look for the good in other people
A crisis can bring out the worst and best in human nature. Recognise that the best in human nature is rising to the challenge. Frontline health workers have recently been working overtime and putting themselves at risk to help sick patients. Neighbourhoods are putting together care packages for those in need. People are posting positive messages on social media. Friends from across the globe are reaching out to one another. When we tune into these positive and pro-social aspects of the current crisis, we can unite in hope and, in turn, lift our individual spirits.
Some organisations have reported huge improvements in engagement and productivity when employees have seen the meaning of their work in action through helping others in a time of crisis. At this moment, for all of us, purpose is king. It allows us to strip away all the non-essential ‘stuff’ that may have accumulated over time… How does the work you do make others’ lives better? When you find out the answer and strive to do even more, no amount of disconnection could ever break us apart.
Distance doesn’t have to equal disconnection. Your employees might be apart, but you can bring them together through their wellbeing, creating connection and camaraderie.
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