Reconnecting with Coworkers
For better or worse, human relationships are the beating heart of any workplace. Without them little to nothing gets accomplished, and healthy ones are always the x-factor that pushes a team above the rest. In professional baseball they call this “clubhouse chemistry”, or when a manager strikes gold and gets a talented group of players who also happen to love playing together. We’ve all seen our share of pro teams that underachieve despite having all the best talent.
However, with the economy slow-rolling up to speed, facing labor and production shortages as it goes in addition to ongoing COVID-19 precautions, staffing up and recapturing that clubhouse chemistry again is going to get harder before it gets easier for many organizations. How a company handles the big emotions that will come along with coworkers reconnecting can go a long way toward smoothing the transition.
Workers everywhere have mounting feelings of isolation that are reaching a tipping point. A People poll from late April found that 67% of Americans have “felt more alone than ever before,” and 46% revealed that they cried “for the first time in a very long time lately.” Feelings of isolation and loneliness are especially more prevalent in young adults. These feelings will not magically disappear when employees walk through the office doors.
Time is of the essence. Our relationships and sense of community have been shattered by the pandemic, and there will need to be a time to reconnect and mend those bonds. Work buddies need to get back in the swing of things, new hybrid work dynamics need to get established and worn in, and daily in-person support networks need time to grow and be fruitful.
3 Ways to Make Reconnecting with Coworkers Meaningful
The reopening transition is an excellent opportunity to create the best environment for all that to occur. Here are three solid ways to make reconnecting with coworkers meaningful:
- Create daily emotional space – As mentioned above, there will be big emotions throughout the reopening process as people adjust to ongoing external challenges. Be sure to create a lot of space for those emotions to exist and play out day-to-day, offer support when needed, and respect everyone’s boundaries. We will all need time for a very long exhale before getting back to any semblance of normal.
- Plan a social event – It’s tempting to jump back into work and take care of pleasantries on the fly, but slowing down and taking a moment to recognize the magnitude of what we’ve all been through to get this far is a great idea. Planning a safe sanctioned event specifically for reconnecting and catching up in or outside of the workplace can put people at ease and help them mentally reset to new office dynamics.
- Stay focused on safety – Before any healthy bonding can occur at work there must be a healthy work environment that gives people confidence in their personal safety. Optional in-person attendance periods, hybrid re-opening plans, and vaccine incentives are just some of the ways companies are signaling their commitment to creating a safe workplace that everyone can feel included in.
Generate Your Own Warmth
Nobody knows what unique challenges reopening the economy has yet to bring, and to some extent we will all have to adapt on the fly and keep things on a swivel. But creating the right conditions for human relationships to flourish is no secret. As a social species we all have bonding instincts that when gone unattended wield great influence over our day-to-day happiness. Relationships are, without a doubt, the warmth-generating engine of culture – without them nothing reopens, and nothing moves forward. All the more reason to make them a priority.