Remember the office chitchat we used to have whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, about our evening plans or what series we were currently ploughing through? Maybe you’d pop out for a lunchtime walk around the block with your work bestie, go straight to the pub on a Thursday for a team drink or moan about the weather while you were waiting for others to arrive in the meeting room? In a hybrid working world, these things are still important! A virtual working environment needs to be not just functional, but a space where everyone feels connected and empowered. It’s more important than ever to bring kindness and humanity into our working lives, so that everyone can bring their whole selves to the table. Most importantly, individuals need to feel valued and of value. Here are five ways to start you off on this beautiful journey towards kind and collaborative communication.
Let everyone have a voice
Rather than feeling like a cog in the wheel, it’s vital that every individual in a work team has a voice. This is a philosophical awareness that should be made at the top of the company – but not in an empty way that isn’t followed through. It needs to be infused within the structure of every working week or day. This is particularly good for managers who have a more front-footed style and a tendency to share their own ideas rather than asking others.
One way to get the ball rolling is to block out half an hour every Monday morning for a virtual team meeting where everyone has a chance to invite others into their world. One person starts by answering the following four questions, before passing the baton onto another colleague to do the same, and so on until everyone has shared.
- “How are you, how was your weekend?” – Let everyone give an update on how they are and what they’ve been up to. Don’t be afraid to share how you’re truly feeling – we often have a tendency to answer ‘how are you?’ with ‘fine thanks’ even when we’re not!
- “What three things are you focussing on this week?” – Telling your team what you’ve got on your plate this week not only motivates you to do what you’ve said you’ll do, but also lets the team know how busy you are, in case they’re planning to add a few more tasks to your list!
- “What are you most excited about?” – This simple question is a way of making sure everyone is working towards their personal goals and doing something that works for them. This will help the individuals and the company grow.
- “Any roadblocks?” – A roadblock is something that could get in the way of progress being made. This might be that you’re waiting for a sign-off from someone else, you’ve got a poorly child who is off school and needs looking after during the day or you’re feeling swamped by a neverending to-do list. Sharing these roadblocks helps to create a culture of support within the team – it’s human nature to help each other find solutions to these challenges, and often prevents feelings of isolation and overwhelm.
It’s important to get everyone to take part in this – from interns through to directors – so that there is honesty, and often vulnerability, from the top down. By doing this, you are demonstrating that it’s safe to show that side of yourself rather than putting up a barrier.
Incorporate a mindset activity
A lovely way to add wellbeing into your work routine is by making space for a regular activity during work hours, where the team can escape from their to-do list and feel motivated and curious. By taking it in turns to lead the activity, not only are you creating an open space where the team can bond, you are also making sure that everyone, including the less confident people, get the chance to lead the team. It works by nominating a different team member to choose the activity each week, making sure everyone has a turn, and has plenty of time to prepare it. Block out a 30-minute slot in your calendar where your team can join a virtual call. At the beginning of the call, get the nominated team member to introduce the task, then spend 15 minutes guiding the team through it. This might be anything from meditation, journaling or quizzes to letter writing, a mini book club or whatever that person is inspired by. Here are a few ideas to start you off.
Encourage active listening
Active listening helps to build rapport by making people feel valued. This is a powerful way to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable to give their point of view. Building rapport isn’t about being the most entertaining person in the room and blasting others with witty well-told stories. It’s about making people feel listened to, and doing it from a grounded space. This is particularly necessary in a virtual world, where multitasking and switching off during conversations is more common. Instead, make an extra effort to give warmth and positivity to team members during virtual calls, so that they feel reassured that you are giving them your full attention. Open gestures, nods, continued eye contact, smiles, fillers (“great”, “ahh”, “ok”, “mmm”) and relaxed posture are all ways to do this. These may seem obvious, but it is amazing how often Zoom speakers are met by a sea of blank faces!
Active listening also means reading the other person’s body language so that you can time your response sensitively and appropriately. A colleague may be uncomfortable or anxious and need to talk, or someone may be calm on the surface but frustrated underneath, and this is only leaking out via their nonverbal cues. So, listening and observing at a more intuitive level is vital to managing these relationships effectively. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to get curious – finding out what matters to your team will encourage them to open up. Ensure that there’s a widespread understanding of what being supportive means – particularly within larger, more corporate companies where this skill set may not exist naturally. For more tips on mastering the art of virtual communication, download this free eBook.
Be vocal about the WHY of your company
There should be a space with the company where people feel that they are part of the overall mission. This means being vocal and transparent about the company goals. If you don’t have those yet, put the work in to find them with your team. Feeling like you’re working towards some kind of greater good is a powerful team building exercise.
This has become increasingly apparent with recent generations. It’s no longer enough to be driven by money. There’s a demand and desire to have integrity and shared values. People are thinking more about the triple bottom line – where social, environmental and financial impacts are what drives the company. Businesses are in a position to leverage influence and make change, and everyone wants and deserves to be a part of that. So make sure that employees know that they can facilitate change. Encourage them to share their ideas and know that they will be listened to and taken seriously. This means putting a structure in to make sure this happens regularly – why not have a team meeting each month allocated to brainstorming what else your company could do to help the community and environment?
Have a growth mindset
There’s no doubt that being a business owner is a juggle! As well as making your team collaborative and happy, be sure to infuse kindness into your own way of working too. Get on board with falling short and making mistakes – these are all things to learn from, and ultimately form the unique nuances that shape your business. It’s important to have a growth mindset culture – both for yourself and for your team. This means letting everybody bring their character, personality and even flaws to the role, encouraging questions and teaching people to actively listen. Put structures in place that make sure everything stems from intention, and don’t be disheartened when things don’t go as planned.
Sometimes remote connection will feel like hard work, other times like light relief. But one thing is certain: when we create time to communicate wholly with others, we’ll feel the benefit in every area of our lives. By embedding these elements of connection and kindness into your business, you are part of the bigger sea change that hybrid working has created. If you start with the basic understanding that everyone needs to feel valued and of value, you are not only giving everyone a voice, but also making sure the business is a force for good. For more information on how to communicate effectively, check out the London Speech Workshop’s one-to-one communication courses in Effective Communication, Public Speaking, Accent Softening, Elocution, Interview Technique and bespoke workshops for businesses.
The best thing about the work that we do is knowing that we make a difference. For many, the work with us has improved their confidence, their day to day life and sense of what they can do in their lives. It is truly a privilege to be part of this process.
About your author
Emma is an entrepreneur, author, mother, businesswoman and the founder and director of London Speech Workshop. She developed the Serlin Method™ to help individuals and companies have effective communication at every level, so that authenticity, connection and kindness is constantly present.
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