Since the Pandemic, many of us live in a virtual work world now. Even with hybrid work schedules, you see some people some of the time and some people work from home more than they are in the office. How do you stay connected? How do you keep people that work with and for you feeling like they are part of something bigger than just a transactional exchange of time for money?
One of the ways we have done this is to get together a few times a year for in-person face time. It's made a world of difference in my humble opinion. It's necessary. When human beings break bread together, walls come down. Relationships and bonds are strengthened.
Do you know the names of your colleague's spouses or kids? Do they have pets? What do they love doing outside of work? Strengthening bonds at work can be as simple as asking someone how they plan on spending their Thanksgiving or how their kids are doing in travel basketball this season.
For leaders, this is crucial. You need to spend time with your team just talking to them about how their lives are going. It used to be easier when we were all in the office together because you would learn things about your people just casually grabbing water, or riding up the elevator together. Now we don't have those moments so we have to be very intentional about creating it and being sincere. Inc. Magazine had a great article about this and listed the following tips to create intentional opportunities to connect with your team:
Share your lives- It used to occur naturally when someone's spouse popped in or your kid visited you. People want to be connected with people. We do a virtual video meeting (CAMERA'S ON!) each day, and while at least 10-15 minutes of it is just water cooler stuff, it's vital to keep connected with each other as human beings.
Schedule check-in's-Take time to see how your team members are doing. It's important for leadership but it's equally important for team members as well. With the talent crisis we are facing, it is less likely someone is going to leave a company in which they have strong relationships and personal ties.
Study your key people-I spoke with the CEO of a 400 person firm who kept a little notebook with names and information about the key members of his team so he could remember things and be able to talk with them. It's a strong leadership trait to WANT to know the names of your people's family. He would study it before he would travel to an office and then make sure he asked how 'Peggy was doing after her surgery' or if 'the new baby was sleeping through the night'.
Budget for actual face time-Many of my client companies bring their entire teams in once a year for a weekend of meetings and play. The HR Manager at one of my clients used to cook a made-to-order breakfast for the entire company the day before Thanksgiving. Many companies do this when their team is local but for my team, I viewed taking my team to Dallas for a few days as an investment in my company and my team.
Lastly, this is also the time of year that can be very challenging for people from a personal standpoint. While the holidays look sunny and bright on television and stores, for many it is a just a rough time. People in your company are carrying stuff when they come to work even though they don't verbalize it. Take a few minutes over the next week to talk with people on your team and see how they are doing. It takes work to be intentional to build, strengthen, and maintain strong bonds with your people and particularly in a virtual or hybrid work environment. It's the human thing to do but it's also good business. People don't leave companies where they have a strong personal connection, so it's also about circling the wagons to create an environment where people feel connected and where they want to stay working.