Developing Relationships in a Hybrid Work Environment
Over the past two years most organizations have experienced some splintering in the social connections and company culture due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting remote work environments. The way people view their work was altered, their priorities have shifted and the way they communicate with colleagues has changed.
As workers are coming back to the office, or at least following the hybrid model, bonds between old employees must be rebuilt, or created for those who are either new to the company or the industry.
Over the last few years, most of the interactions we have with colleagues were based on projects and tasks at hand. As a result, we’re missing the ‘water cooler’ moments and small social interactions that build teams and allow for cross-functional collaboration.
Here are some approaches we’ve seen leaders adopt to reestablish strong connections across their companies as they permanently shift to remote and hybrid work environments.
Establish virtual points of connections
Through remote work we lost many opportunities for face-to-face connections and informal conversations. Water cooler moments were lost to make way for more structured and formal meetings, which make it harder for teams to build personal connections.
To bring back opportunities for informal conversations, your organization could experiment with different approaches that take into account the different levels of social interaction people need. You could establish a committee that meets bi-weekly or monthly to discuss shared topics – this could be a committee focused on shared education, health and wellness, or even a book club. For those who prefer shorter interactions there could be a weekly 30 minute coffee hour, or a weekly glass of wine after work.
It’s important to highlight that virtual engagement should not be treated as a pandemic Band-Aid, but developed as part of the company’s HR policy.
Create new shared goals and identities
As humans we naturally bind ourselves to groups, those that are immediately around us and share the same purpose. It follows that those outside our immediate group are classed as others; we are less likely to trust them, share ideas and collaborate with them.
To counteract that and help build trust leaders could establish cross-functional working groups to collaborate on projects – this could be client related, or office related.
Developing a connection with a broader purpose will help improve social cohesion within your teams and encourage collaboration.
Throughout the pandemic, organizations were experimenting with the amount of communications sent to employees, with mixed results. For some teams the communications were too little; employees missed out on a lot of important information and their sense of belonging to a company has diminished. For others, they were involved in an increased number of meetings and emails.
To capture different needs of employees, consider embracing multiple channels of communication. People are less likely to read social or office related emails when they prioritize clients. You need to repeat critical messaging and change the format of communication – try an instant messaging system like Slack or pick up the phone!
Rethink your workplace strategy
Many organizations are struggling with creating an efficient work environment – it’s harder to gauge how workers are doing in the new environment and what models work best for them. You need multiple approaches to ensure you meet the needs of all your employees!
Before embarking on a new hybrid work strategy for your teams, reach out to them and see how they’ve adapted to the change in work environment. They’ll be less likely to be upset by the resulting changes and feel like they were part of decision making.
Tenant consultancy firms offer services that help companies develop their workplace strategies. Exis partner Solved developed an innovative method to do just that – they created a mobile Escape Room where teams experience the pitfalls of hybrid work in real-life – and the added value it can offer – as they participate in a short ‘pressure cooker’ session. This was specifically designed to offer organizations more insight into the main aspects of hybrid work.
There are many innovative approaches to help you establish your workplace strategy. Reach out to one of our partners in your region to see how they can help you.