Maximizing This Time for Connection

Aleta Maxwell
Should connection at work be a focus right now?

This might seem like a silly question to some, but if you want to create a better working environment for your employees in order to help them facilitate better production, you need to consider changing how you think of the connection with your employees.

During this uncertain time of COVID-19, all of our workplace norms have been thrown up in the air.

  • No longer are we working together in the same physical space, but rather remotely from home.

  • No longer are we able to have the brief moments of connection in the kitchen grabbing coffee/tea, or before a meeting starts checking in on how the rest of the family is.

  • No longer are we celebrating birthdays or anniversaries at the end of month office parties

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this might be a good thing.

No, scratch that, an excellent thing.

Not the virus itself, or the horrendous effects that it has had on so many that we love.

But rather the breaking down of the illusion that we had any type of connection at all while working together.

Did you really get to connect during that 5-minute coffee grab from the kitchen?

Did you truly get to learn more about your colleague as a person while chatting with others before a meeting started?

I’m going to venture that with some, you have deeper relationships than with others; however, on a whole, I’ve heard over and over again that the basic connection has been slipping for a while.

We gave up on the personal connections in favor of getting our to-do list done. We viewed the interactions during meetings as times that we were connecting, but we were focused on the task at hand. We said the common niceties of “How’s it going?” but didn't wait for a response or follow up at all. It was something to say to be nice. Now that these moments have been taken away, we have the unprecedented opportunity to focus on connecting and furthering our relationships! 

Unfortunately, I’m seeing far too many are not taking advantage of this opportunity.Now, don’t get me wrong, some leaders are doing a fabulous job with connection during this time. I heard from one friend that her nephew’s team has a regularly scheduled 9 am Zoom call with his coworkers, where they do nothing but catch up on their personal lives/check-in with each other and exchange quarantine stories or update each other on sick family members. She was marveling at how this team has been able to not only maintain connection during this social distancing time but become even more connected and really lean on each other! Unfortunately, this story stood out-but it’s just not a common one I’ve been hearing.

More often, I’m hearing that employees are having the opposite experience…. that while their supervisor might check in with them a few times a week, it’s more about outstanding project issues rather than on any personal level. Zoom calls are turning into just basic meetings that all too often could have been an email.

The anxiety that many are feeling is overwhelming, as not only are they dealing with the personal mental stress of living through a pandemic, but they don’t know if they are doing a good job professionally while now adjusting to working alone in their homes for the first time. The nuances that gave employees signs they are doing a good job or that their supervisor is unhappy with them have been stripped away. They don’t get the pop in at their desk saying they are doing well on a project or a smile when passing to go to the restroom. The additional stress of possibly being furloughed is now exacerbated because many don’t know how their supervisor even feels towards them, as there isn’t a way to check in on basic needs being met.

It doesn’t have to be this way! 

Imagine what could be.

  • What if, instead, every person decided to hit the reset button with their team?

  • What if each took a moment to connect via Zoom, Facetime or another mode of communication to discuss how each is feeling during this time, what their basic needs are, and if they are being met?

  • What if we asked during this time what was the ideal way that a communication structure could be set up for each?

Imagine if you learned during this time that Karen loves frequent check-ins, as this gives her a confidence boost to know that she's on your page and loves the feedback. An every-other-day-quick 10-minute call to give critical feedback and/or accolades would do her wonders and really help her to be her best self. Or that Jack doesn’t need that many check-ins, as he does a great job working individually, but really would like a weekly check in to talk not only shop, but just as humans as he’s isolating alone and is just wanting human connection. Consider that you can then strengthen your relationship with Jack during this weekly call, learning about his hobbies and family, and that you might find even more overlap/connection points that help bond you two in ways that you didn’t think were possible. The engagement uptick from both Jack and Karen I would venture to guess would rise, and you’d end up having employees who would work harder for you and follow you wherever you want to lead.

If you want to create a remote working environment to support your employees best in order to help them feel valued and motivated, then I suggest you seek out what each person needs. Find out what each is dealing with on top of their workload and treat each with empathy while letting them know that they are seen, heard and appreciated during this crazy time.

This could be what helps your business bounce back even better.

If each team can strengthen their bond, connect on a deeper level, and learn what each needs to feel their best, we can come out of this with some great insights that will set us up for huge success ahead. I appeal to each leader to investigate and be curious about the relationship within their team, and how they can strengthen them during this time.

At the end of the day, the human connection will be what pulls us through this.

How are you connecting with your team? Share your tips and any good communications avenues you’ve found in the comments.

And if you enjoyed this piece, please share it with your network.

About Aleta

Aleta Maxwell is a certified executive coach, best-selling author, leadership development content creator, as well as CEO & Founder of Uplifting Leadership.Aleta has held multiple senior-level leadership roles over the past 25 years in the hospitality industry and non-profit companies.While partnering with leaders at all levels of management, Aleta utilizes techniques like curiosity, compassion, and courage to help clients become more aligned with their purpose and values. Using these techniques, Aleta collaborates with her clients to uplift their specific leadership skill set and hone the tools needed to develop brand ambassadors in their employees.