Leaders must support social connections to maintain performance and wellbeing

Do you remember those precious social connections at work before remote working? Those ones that helped you flourish at work as they boosted your confidence, knowledge, positivity and energy.

We are social beings and get energy, confidence and personal satisfaction from interacting with others. Over the past few months, as we have settled into a rhythm of remote working, and where zoom and other online formats have taken the place for face to face interaction, many have mentioned to me that they are only now realising how important those social connection moments were and how many they had taken for granted.

Social connections we now miss out on

  • Arriving at your desk in the morning with hellos and a few words as you walked through the door and office. 
  • Pre meeting chit chat as you pour the coffee and find your seat waiting for others to arrive. 
  • Walking to grab a sandwich at lunch or bumping into someone on the way back. 
  • Swinging by someone’s desk to ask their opinion or check in on them 
  • A quick drink after work 
  • Brainstorms and informal meetings on the spur of the moment to get input on and bounce around ideas

We need more than a hello and seeing each other

As social beings we need more than online meetings, whatsapping and telephone calls can give us. The formalities and the distance of an online meeting for example can often feel like a set of awkward hellos and goodbyes as the limit of social interaction outside the work stuff. You can’t respond or even see the true feelings and reactions of people like you can when you sit beside or opposite for them for example. Icebreaking tactics are not enough and can often feel a little tedious.

Taking responsibility as the leader

If you are leading a team your role now needs to include helping people maintain social connection more than ever for wellbeing, productivity and long term effectiveness.

Here are 5 things you can do right now to support your teams social connections;

  • Set up team social hours online with one to one break out rooms
    • Give people the space and encouragement to have social and work conversations and maintain their connection with team mates.
  • Schedule 5-10 minutes at the beginning or end of at least one meeting each week for social connection
    • Give everyone the space and freedom to have an informal chat under your direction and invitation. Lead by example and see what happens.
  • Create an event
    • Remove the work aspect and invite everyone to a social event such as quiz, book club or Friday night office drinks online.
  • Lunch & learn activities
    • Get everyone together once a week with a theme of group learning aligned to your vision. Encourage everyone to take a turn in leading the session.
  • Company retreat
    • As things begin to open up around you, why create a company socially distanced retreat to bring people together in a physical space

These are just some of the things you can consider. Try and test these and consider what other things your team need. Add the question ‘How can I help my team maintain social connection while remote working?’ to your to do list this and next week. It’s a must and just needs a little time, effort and your acknowledgement of responsibility to tackle it. 

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