There is so much talk about how to “engage employees” in the hybrid workforce. That being in the office altogether, how most of the working world was just two years ago, is the only way that employees can feel as though they are a part of the team. That being in person is imperative to their overall success.
I have been working remotely for more than 10 years at this point, so my position on “butts in seats” hasn’t matched the in-office perspective for some time. I mean, unless people are sitting with us watching us do the work and correcting things in real-time, the real “over the shoulder” scenario (which can be replicated fairly well via video chat), does sitting together have any value at all?
Maybe. Perhaps the biggest missing component between remote work and in-office work, is the causal team building that happens amongst coworkers. The getting to know you’s, having lunch together, commiserating while getting coffee, and the elusive water cooler conversations.
The truth is it can be easier to do all those things in-person. For some people. But the truth also is, that just because employees get to know each other while working together in person, doesn’t mean that employees feel a part of their team, department, company.
It’s a false correlation that building coworker relationships leads to better engagement. Not the “employee engagement” metric – which is something we cannot influence, but the emotion of feeling engaged. The next sentence would typically reference the “Great Resignation” and how lack of engagement has led to people leaving… which is part of it, but it’s not the only reason which is why that conversation will happen elsewhere.
Instead, let’s talk about the little things you can do as a people leader and/or as an HR professional, to help employees feel connected to their coworkers, team, department, and company. There are many EASY things that across the board, aren’t being done because it’s not something that mattered as much (if at all) when all people were together in one location. Creating connection and engagement in a hybrid work environment is not doing the same things you did in person and hope it works. We’ve learned so far, it doesn’t… right? So, let’s tackle hybrid engagement a bit differently, starting with this activity that will take a few seconds of your time (ok, so maybe it will add up to an entire minute throughout the day, but still…).
Participate in Conversations on Slack/Teams, etc.
This is the absolute lowest hanging fruit and yet, it’s one of the biggest gaps I’m seeing across teams everywhere. It’s really simple, but it does take a moment of time.
The action: Add emojis to your team member’s conversations or participate in a thread.
Most people treat Slack like social media – you use DMs (chat function) to have mini-conversations and you drop an emoji when you feel something “worth the effort.” You ignore threads that you don’t have an opinion about or a question wasn’t asked.
But here’s the thing. By doing that, by not being an active participant in your team’s chats or Slack channels, you are missing a VERY EASY win.
At the end of the day, your employees are all human. Humans just want to be seen and heard and acknowledged to feel a part of the team.At the end of the day, your employees are all human. Humans just want to be seen and heard and acknowledged to feel a part of the team. #engagement #employeeexperience Click To Tweet
When they post an update or ask for participation or feedback in a team channel and the response is minimal… it’s disappointing. When the leader of the team can’t take the time to drop a supportive emoji or acknowledge the post, it’s disengaging. On a deep, personal level.
Add onto that, the employee may be an introvert or new to the team or different than other team members, and the lack of a simple emoji, can feel isolating. It can feel like you’re being left out of the conversation, like you’re not allowed to be at the “cool kids table.”When the leader of the team can’t take the time to drop a supportive emoji or acknowledge the post, it’s disengaging. On a deep, personal level. #leadership #engagement #HR #slack Click To Tweet
If you are going to have a team channel for discussion, honor the space and participate. Create a safe space for employees to share updates, get to know their teammates, and start to build relationships together. And it all starts with an emoji… for your team members to feel heard and a part of the overall goal.