As many people returned to the live rigours of the office environment from September, I was fortunate enough to embark on what I am terming a 'semi sabbatical'. I have two particular insights from the first months of my lovely, more balanced experiences that I would like to share...
The first insight is what I've gained from giving myself permission to have more balance in my life (for me this has meant thinking about what gives me joy, and doing more of it). I've had the space to say yes to opportunities and try out fun projects and activities that I had always thought I'd like to do but previously always come up with that classic excuse we all know: 'I don't have time'. In creating this balance, I have more headspace, clarity and calmness for my work, and this has made me realise how this can be internalised as a way of life. I wholeheartedly recommend, where possible, for people to bring in some space for themselves outside of their working identity.
That brings me to my second insight - recently we've been involved in really exciting discussions about bespoke workshops for several very interesting companies. One of the themes that is bringing great joy to my heart is that many are coming to us with a philosophy already in place about respecting the humanity of their team. In helping their employees holistically in their lives, they're also helping them to be better in the workplace. Some are coming to us less advanced on that philosophy, but knowing that there's something in giving people a space for softer skills - one person termed this 'enrichment'. By doing this, it's going to give back both to the company and the individual in multiple ways.
It's also got me thinking about how challenging it is for people not only to return to the office, but also to create a safe space in a virtual team. The team should act in an encouraging way, bringing their entire selves to the table. This means making sure there's time at the beginning of meetings to have a quick check-in to find out how people are doing - not just in the workplace, but in their life outside of work too. It's about making sure that those water cooler moments are there - either face-to-face or virtually. You need to be saying 'how are you' and really meaning it, listening and reflecting on their answer.
To that end, I came across something wonderful in a newsletter from Tony, a coach I used to work with. It's filled with really useful tips on virtual communication. I'd like to share his amazing insight and ten tips here:
"Virtual can never replace face-to-face"
To be honest, pre-pandemic I would have agreed.
Especially when working with teams.
But my experience of working virtually over the past year has proved to me that we can connect at a deep and meaningful way even when the medium of connection is virtual.
Yes it's different but if you can adopt an open mindset - anything's possible.
"Whether you think you can or you think you can't - you're probably right"
Here's some of the things I've learned that make virtual a really rewarding experience.
1. Check in before you start
Ask "how are you?" then ask "how are you really?" - but only if you care to hear the answer. No need to try to 'fix' anything, just be a witness to how people are...really. It's enough.
2. Zero tolerance for multi-tasking
Be here or leave - it's simple really, we're adults not children.
3. Keep the cameras on
And keep the lights on - it helps to see and be seen (which by the way, is all most of us want in life)
4. Toss an imaginary ball around and hear ALL voices
...Not just the usual ones. This also has the benefit of keeping everyone on their toes and engaged.
5. Bottom line
Get to the point and help others do so too - might feel a bit rude to begin with but you will love it when people stop repeating themselves and finding 10 ways to say the same thing.
6. Listen with appreciation
Acknowledge what you like about what was said by the last speaker and then add your bit. So often when we speak in virtual meetings we are met either by silence or the next person speaks without the slightest acknowledgement of what has been said before - it sucks your energy - stop doing it - give a little love to whoever has just spoken even if, especially if, you disagree with what they just said.
7. Stay OPEN in the conversation
Be curious, be compassionate, be courageous. Avoid being CLOSED so try not to judge before being curious, try not to be cynical before being compassionate, try not to be fearful, try to be courageous - it's infectious.
8. Stay on track
If it's a bad meeting, it's partly your fault too so say something when you're in it and can affect it, not complain later when it's too late. Take responsibility for your experience.
9. Leave enough time at the end to wrap up well
Maybe hear a short takeaway from each person so you get a sense of what has been created.
10. Leave time between meetings
Leave at least 5 minutes between this meeting and your next one.
Give it a go. Remember - teams are living systems, they need to be nourished and nurtured or they will die of exhaustion and boredom!
Thanks Tony! The key is that people feel seen and responded to as a human, rather than being a list of work tasks or targets. In order to do that there are various devices you can put in to create a sense of being valued - like having a social space within the company and a safe space where people can discuss roadblocks and support each other. The difference between introverts and extroverts is amplified in a virtual environment, so it's vital to create a culture where everyone has their voice.
So, wherever you are, either at work or not at work, virtually or face to face, I urge you to think about where you can support your colleagues by inviting in more of their rounded identity to the workplace, or where you can support yourself, by giving yourself that space to be all angles of you.
If you'd like to reach out to us about this or any other topic, give us a call on 020 3137 6323.