Do you know the situation: a company wants to return to normality. But the employees don’t play along. They rebel, even refuse to return to the office? Then read about four factors that will help you restore belonging in your teams.
Many companies are on the cusp of hybrid working, or it’s already a lived reality, even if you didn’t want it to be when home office was mandated for everyone last year.
Home office initially led to efficiency gains, but then the performance curve weakened. In particular, activities that require coordination suffer at a distance. The compensatory communication effort for managers and teams is enormously high.
In the hybrid world of work, we discover areas that are new and in which we do not feel particularly competent at first. There are still enough people who are not super experts at video conferencing, or who still struggle to filter and make sense of the wealth of digital information. This may not sound like a big deal, but the feeling of not being as competent as your colleagues scratches at your self-confidence.
Resistance can stir from this, and already we see the many symptoms of “reluctant” employees who don’t really want hybrid working.
If we ask around, we sense a great resignation in many people. So many big and small problems in our transformed (working) lives, where we sometimes feel helpless because we are overwhelmed by the complexity.
At the same time, we also like many innovations in our jobs. We quickly get used to new circumstances, and once we’ve experienced advantages, we don’t give them up: no more time wasted traveling to work, free scheduling of working hours, sports in between, nice cooking. Sweatpants instead of expensive suits. Family life instead of colleague gossip. Dog instead of office plants.
If you want to lead hybrid teams, you have to like emotions now!
One thing has probably become clear to everyone: there will be no going back to the familiar state! But when we have lost direction or focus, we experience great mental stress. This is because our need for security and control is not satisfied, which often leads to negative emotions.
Emotions in teams range from insecurity, fear, frustration to resignation, sadness or anger. Some show their feelings clearly, others hide them behind a cheerful facade.
As a leader, you should not be afraid of emotions in your team, but rather be aware of them and steer them in a constructive direction so that your team does well in the new hybrid working world and can perform with motivation.
According to American neuroscientist Prof. Richard Davidson, awareness, connectedness, insight, and meaningfulness are the critical factors in managing emotions and strengthening well-being and mental fitness.
Teams cope much better with the challenges of hybrid work when they operate in an attitude of well-being. They also develop a better team spirit and feel a sense of belonging to the team.
Let’s take a closer look.
Start mentally fit into the hybrid working world
Awareness is about the ability to pay attention, to be self-aware, and to focus.
Many feel a longing for the familiar state of safety before the pandemic. When we felt we had everything under control. We knew our place in the job, in the family, and had an idea of what our future looked like. There were far fewer unpredictable events and distractions. We were often able to focus much better on our tasks.
Hybrid teams can train with mindfulness-based methods to perceive their attention in the here and now and to strengthen their own focus. For example, the breathing exercise “1-minute arrival” at the beginning of a virtual meeting is suitable for this. It increases both concentration for the meeting and the feeling of spending time together as a team and working on a result.
Many companies are registering a decline in employee engagement, reflected in lost performance and higher turnover. Onboarding worked particularly poorly during the pandemic, with many new employees not really catching on with their long-established colleagues at the Zoom conference.
We humans are and will always be social creatures. We depend on bonds with others to feel like we belong to the group. That’s why it’s important to find suitable rituals and behaviors in the team to strengthen psychological security and trust within the team. The more human and personal the virtual and hybrid contact can be made, the greater the bond will be formed.
Insight is about a healthy self-image, the ability to fend off self-defeating narratives and recover quickly from adverse events.
It’s the pragmatic question of how leaders and teams can put aside their self-defeating behaviors and turn more toward the well-being of the team so that performance and results remain stable.
My answer to this is a changed leadership approach: leadership and team spirit characterized by compassion instead of egoism. Compassion means empathizing with others and offering them help when they need it. So we need empathy to be able to empathize with the other person’s situation. If we practice compassion, we go a step further and offer our help, even though it may mean effort on our part. When we recognize that compassionate interaction helps all of us on the team, the psychological security that carries the team through future stormy times unfolds within the team.
Sense of purpose
Companies should recognize how important it is in the hybrid world of work to visibly communicate to employees that and how they are making an important and meaningful contribution through their work.
I pragmatically recommend that teams share what ways of working and interacting make sense for their hybrid setting so that engagement and performance returns. I like to ask teams: what do you need to feel safe and secure in your new hybrid workplace? What do you need from your teammates and your manager to make hybrid working work?
Hybrid teams need “we-time” now to feel a sense of belonging and realignment again
“We-time” sounds too mundane for you to address the problem of dwindling belonging and realignment? That’s right, just sitting together and drinking coffee isn’t enough.
Your team needs personal time now, above all, to feel the “we-feeling” again. Encounter instead of screen. Team atmosphere instead of at-home routine. Enthusiasm instead of routines. A feeling of trust instead of anonymity. The upcoming start of the year is particularly suitable for this.
The last one and a half years have left mental traces on all of us. We have organized our lives with bravura, but what about our mental state? This is where I start, because this area is almost always neglected. Yet the four factors described above show that we only perform well if we also feel mentally fit.
So if you want to make good use of “we time” with your team, you could start with these three questions:
- To everyone: What are your three biggest challenges at work and in your personal life, and how can we help you as a team?
- To the team: How do we work together to strengthen trust and belonging in the hybrid team setting?
- To you: What expectations does my team have of me and what new patterns of success do I need to lead my hybrid team?
You can probably think of other topics to strengthen the affiliation in your team.
This is one of the symptoms of current developments: there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for hybrid working, only individual approaches. Therefore, just ask your team and work with them on the important issues for your successful hybrid collaboration. In this way, you appeal to your team’s commitment and at the same time further develop the assumption of responsibility for the team’s success.
I wish you every success.