A year on. Little did I imagine I would still be working from home, spending endless hours on zoom, travelling less than five miles for months and not meeting anyone face to face other than my family.
My working days, probably like many of yours, consist of sitting in front of a screen jumping in and out of virtual meetings, and itching for the time when I can be in a room with people again. Not all the time, but at least to help fuel my hunger for feeling connected. For those moments when I just want to say “I’m a bit stuck with this…what are your thoughts…”. Or to have some reassurance and quieten my internal critical voice that often gets louder when something didn’t go as well as I planned.
Those small moments of spontaneous conversation make a huge difference and I’m incredibly fortunate to have a fantastic bunch of people around me (albeit sitting on another laptop). Our relationships pre- pandemic were already strong, and although the way in which we connect has changed, we are intentional about what we talk about. We make time for chatting about our families, the highs and lows of our favourite sports teams, the antics of our infamous pets, not in a trivial way, but in a way that nurtures our friendship.
Back in 2015 when we started our research into workplace conversations, one of the key findings was how much people value and need human connection. As one business leader said, “meetings are about making connections and letting people know we are not in an ivory tower somewhere…It’s quite satisfying to get that human aspect to it. It increases productivity, drives business.” In those informal conversations, the ‘chit chat’ strengthens workplace relationships and strong relationships impact two things critical to the bottom line: productivity and innovation. But it’s the informal conversation that is often being squeezed out of our days right now and it’s having an impact on employees feeling more isolated and less connected.
“Organisations should understand that being nice to each other, chatting, and goofing around together is part of the work that we do. The spontaneous, informal interactions at risk in hybrid and remote work are not distractions or unproductive. They foster the employee connections that feed productivity and innovation — these interactions are the soil in which ideas grow.” HBR
Some illuminating data has recently emerged from Microsoft’s annual Work Trend Index showing the significant impact that a year of full-time remote work has had on organisational connections. As we start planning for what the future of our workplaces will look like, we need to be mindful, not just about structures, policies, and processes, but how to support and encourage people to connect in a more human way in their conversations.
Going forward, meetings are likely to be a blend of people being together in physical offices whilst others join remotely. Careful thought and planning will be required to how these kinds of conversations take place so that everyone feels included and able to contribute. Being intentional about connecting, sharing stories, and having fun will help people feel more engaged and motivated.
This isn’t the ‘soft, trivial stuff’ of work. To thrive, collaborate, share ideas, and show that we care, we need to create space and time to really listen to each other. We need to grow our Conversational Wisdom® in new and different ways. We need to reconsider how we strengthen human connection through the power of our conversations.
Do get in touch, we’d love to have a chat about how we can help your people become more conversationally wise.