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Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard and engage your people whatever your plan.
Human beings have a basic need to connect with each other and it has been this lack of physical connection, forced by lockdowns and restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, that has been so difficult to deal with for so many people. We have missed having the opportunity to be together, to touch and to look each other fully in the eye, in a way that just isn’t possible during virtual interactions. Body language too, so critical to the way we understand each other as we communicate, is nigh on impossible to see or read on a laptop screen. We need to be in the same space to fully interact with each other in an effective and rewarding way.
In the workplace, water cooler culture – the day-to-day, face-to-face, informal chats about work and personal topics – is an important factor motivating people to go to work and to enjoy their time there. It helps to boost and cement corporate culture, bringing teams together and increases their sense of well-being and happiness at work. It provides unscheduled ‘light’ moments that help us to recharge and refocus when we return to our desks to complete our daily tasks.
Employees are generally positive about the remote working experience, and although some cannot wait to get back to their old schedules, commuting and falling back into the old patterns of their workplace, others are welcoming the chance to retain some periods of working from home into their working week. It is worth considering however, that the popularity of home working stems from the fact that it was only ever meant to be temporary – a necessary change from the norm that accommodated social distancing – and that it is far more difficult to maintain engagement and enthusiasm for work when sitting at home alone carries on over a prolonged period. Employees that had invested themselves in social and personal interactions at the actual water cooler have had social capital to draw upon for the first months of remote working, but there is a danger that the longer they are away from their desks, the less engaged they will be. The challenge for HR and team leaders relating to new-starters and shyer characters is even greater.
So how do companies support employee well-being and engagement in the next normal, where many people may continue to work remotely at least part of the time?
- Cloud-based digital solutions provide the tools for teams to work effectively from home, and they can also support remote water cooler culture. Team chat apps can offer employees a way to interact in a less formal way, or schedule some virtual meetings that are purely for personal interaction, not work chat.
- Create an environment of transparency and trust. Managers can’t physically keep an eye on their team when they are working from home, so it is important that everyone, if they haven’t already, learns to trust each other to be doing what they should be. A sense of openness and being trusted has a positive impact on employees’ well-being and morale and actually supports productivity, not skiving.
- Schedule team breaks and encourage employees to engage in non-work-related chat during these times. Leaders can set the benchmark here, initiating informal conversations that make everyone engage on a human level.
- Organise virtual happy hours, team lunches, even tea and cake breaks. If the team can’t do their usual Friday after-work drinks, or sit together in the canteen at lunch time, create a new virtual environment for similar activities and encourage everyone to take part.
- Celebrate success and achievement as a team. When people are working remotely it’s easy to overlook the small wins that build a successful project. Recognising when an employee has done a great job and getting the whole team involved in celebrating that is very important for morale and to keep everyone energised and enthusiastic about their work.
No two organisations are alike and each needs to identify strategies that suit it best. HR teams must understand the behavioural concerns of employees around trust and psychological safety; creativity and collaboration; mental health and overall well-being; and use that to create innovative and creative solutions that are appropriate for their own organisations and people. Getting this right is critical for supporting and engaging employees in the next normal and has an important function in retention, talent development, diversity and organisational cohesion.
Want to find out more about how you can safeguard your people and successfully replicate water cooler culture in a changing world? Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard and engage your people whatever your plan.