Firstly, during the last year, people have become accustomed to attending and hosting virtual meetings in their own homes where they have balanced work commitments with a host of distractions. In many cases, this has led to a reduction in our genuine engagement with one another. Leaders will need to allow time for employees to readjust to face-to-face communication, where much more concentrated attention is required.
Secondly, with the introduction of furlough, many have missed months of formal and informal communication at work and may feel as though they are returning at a disadvantage, with relationships and roles developing while they were absent. Similarly, those that worked through may hold resentment or jealously towards those that were granted paid leave to focus on their family and home commitments.
Finally, over the course of the pandemic, many teams will have undergone significant change in personnel, be that natural progression of staff moving on over the course of the year or enforced redundancies as a direct result of the pandemic. Leaders may find that they are returning to the office with a new team, facing new dynamics and potentially the loss of integral unifying personalities.
It will be up to leaders and managers to find ways to work through these difficult emotions and diverse experiences and bring their teams back together as a cohesive unit.
There are several strategies leaders can employ to address these issues and reconnect their teams post-pandemic:
- Increase psychological safety in your organisation. Given the loss of physical connection, it is important to invest more in a climate of psychological safety in which people can express themselves without fear of sanction.
- Regular open forums to express and share painful emotions. Organisations tend to focus on the more tangible aspects of organisational life, including targets, actions and bottom-line performance. However, it’s important to organise forums where staff at all levels can discuss some of the painful emotions arising from the last year.
- Reset expectations. Hold a kickoff meeting with your team and key stakeholders to reset expectations on ground rules of working together, including: who is doing what and how have roles shifted? What are the ‘open’ as well as the ‘hidden’ expectations? How do we communicate now? How do we make decisions and resolve conflict?
- Start each meeting by checking in on how each team member is feeling. Before moving into the business agenda, it’s helpful to spend 5-10 minutes on an informal catch-up. You might ask everyone to share their current mood and encourage the team to informally reconnect and reengage with one another.
- Do not give up on difficult conversations. The virtual space may have made it easier to avoid difficult conversations. Use face-to-face opportunities to create the space for conversations on difficult strategic choices or any other painful decisions that were made.
- Set up a buddy system. It may help nurture team bonds if you assign those returning from furlough a mentor or buddy. This connection may encourage your team members to share their experiences over the last year and offer support, dissipating any resentment or tension between the two groups.
Further details on how to nurture a connected team through remote working and beyond, can be found in Connect – Resolve conflict, improve communication and strengthen relationships.
This content has been created by authors in their personal capacity. Any views, thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Pearson.