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Alone, together

January 19, 2023 - Be in the Know

The “back to normal” of the past few months hasn’t stopped employees from feeling isolated, simply because our definition of “normal” has really changed over the past three years. Hybrid work seems here to stay, even though one of its side effects is solitude. What sort of mindset should we adopt moving forward? How can managers and employers adjust to the situation to avoid isolation and encourage team building?

Let go of being 100% productive, 9 to 5

Even though employees are back at the office several days a week, interactions between colleagues are still quite few and far between, and this impacts the social fabric of your troops, right down to their sense of belonging. The oldest employees have succeeded in maintaining personal connections, despite remote work, but newer employees are struggling to create authentic relationships with other team members. Ever since the pandemic hit, chit-chatting around the coffee machine or catching up between meetings is now (strangely) seen as a major vector for involvement.

Even in hybrid mode, the time we spend together has to be 100% productive: we work just like before, at home and at the office. When meetings have wrapped up, we go back to our desk to finish up our tasks, alone in our corner. And yet, the best ideas are often sparked when the formal meetings are over. It’s hard to get moving on things without the “brain juice” of our colleagues to help us!

Create informal meetings

No matter how you approach this, you won’t be able to magically create a sense of belonging among employees with just two or three GIFs. You cannot control every single interaction within your teams and social relationships are hard to build when everyone is stuck behind their screens.  

Giving employees the flexibility of hybrid work allows everyone to choose their preferred work mode. While some might opt for their office desk over their kitchen table, others will be more efficient at home because teleworking helps them achieve a better work/life balance. Being able to adapt, however, is crucial: make time for on-site meetings and discussions and use face-to-face time to get people’s creativity flowing. Be sure to tailor these sessions to each project, role and team.

Try different approaches and see what works. In-person work helps build a sense of community. Our goal at La tête chercheuse is to be efficient without focussing solely on the task at hand. We’ve implemented a hybrid model with two days at the office, one where everyone must be present, to ensure that no one is at the office all alone. We think that teamwork is much more than crossing tasks off a to-do list, and that work happiness is fueled the impact we have on the collective. The connections that bring us together have to be strong enough to last far longer than our video calls.  

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