Half of Polish employees surveyed by Randstad for the Employer Brand Research report declare that a good work atmosphere is a vital factor behind their choice of employer. These figures are all the more relevant for companies in light of the fact that – as shown by the same report – employers with a bad reputation face 10% higher employment costs . These are pre-pandemic figures, but the need to create an employee-friendly atmosphere is just as important now, as we return to business as usual. In fact, it may even be more important than ever, as more and more of our job market is taken over by workers from generations that attach a particular importance to well-being in the workplace.
Improving the working atmosphere often requires the reintegration of employees to the workplace. After years of working in unusual conditions, often remotely on a full-time basis, they don’t feel attached to their colleagues or the company’s organizational culture.
It’s not really the managers’ fault. The pandemic was a turbulent time, which made it virtually impossible to set up a management strategy. What’s more, managing distributed teams is an extremely difficult task even under more ‘ordinary’ conditions.
Despite these challenges, it’s possible to ensure that teams returning to the office – or still working in a distributed model – are happy with the work atmosphere. So what are the ways to make employees feel like part of a team again, after years of interacting with people mostly as avatars in the digital world? How do you bring them back together to navigate through today’s hybrid reality? Here’s a bunch of tips.
Let’s have a look at the 6 key elements of the issue:
- Routine and rituals.
- Shared goals.
Communication was the first to suffer the effects of team distribution during the pandemic. At the same time, it’s one of the key factors impacting employee engagement and disengagement. Elżbieta Robak, a researcher at the Faculty of Management at Częstochowa University of Technology, highlights that the lack of good open communication (insinuations, gossip) destroys interpersonal relationships, making proper team bonding impossible .
In the hybrid work model, efforts should be made to ensure that information disseminated via online channels (e-mails to team members, instant messages, intranet status updates) is strongly supported by in-office meetings. This approach facilitates another key aspect: receiving feedback, honest face-to-face conversations with team members.
Always bear it in mind that non-verbal communication is prone to overinterpretation and misunderstanding . This is why you should have regular in-person meetings with your team members, taking advantage of their availability in the office.
- Routine and rituals
Daily chats at the coffee machine, staff Christmas events, but also morning online status updates and recognition of accomplishments on the intranet: all these ‘small things’ brought together have a huge potential to build rapport between employees and strengthen their ties with the company. As you can see, ‘new workplace traditions’ may emerge both in in-office and remote work models. Just make sure that the proportions are balanced. This means that remote work days get a proper amount of attention as well, with their own ‘rituals’ such as online status updates or end-of-day reports.
An interesting example of ritual-building is taking team photos , which help to capture and remember particularly important moments for the team. Anything that creates a ‘shared tradition’ for the company and employee teams also contributes to team building. Such photos can also bridge the offline and online worlds – for example if you post them on the intranet after a joint event.
Chaos is destructive, so a good strategy is to have clear and well-thought-out rules, even if flexible actions are required afterwards. In the initial phase of ‘back to the office’, people should feel especially strongly that managers are in control of the situation.
- Shared goals
According to the researcher from the Częstochowa University of Technology, shared ethical values and moral standards bring employees together and create positive patterns of behavior .
Consequently, powerful team-bonding opportunities also include joint charitable or community outreach initiatives. Fundraisers for animal shelters or joint tree planting – these are just a few examples of modern team-building activities. Team-bonding trips, in addition to aligning the team around one goal, can be a form of entertainment
Shared goals can also be related to broadening horizons and expanding knowledge. Employees may benefit, for example, from expert training and consultations with specialists available via the MultiLife platform. In this way, they get opportunities for sharing feedback or discussing positive impacts. Employees’ personal development can thus enhance team relationships.
It’s important to note that as many as 43% of workers rank relaxation workshops and courses (such as mindfulness) among the most desirable employee benefits. The proportions are similar for psychological counseling provided by the company (40%) and consultations with a dietician are ranked at 30% .
All of these services help to organize thoughts and teach how to identify what’s most important at any given time. Once employees recognize their goals, it’s easier to find others who share them. Together, they can work towards them more efficiently.
It’s a kind of paradox, but competitions, challenges, and team contests are effective tools of bringing teams together. This is especially evident in sport. As shown in the Benefit Systems 2022 report, as many as 30% of employees believe that supporting company sports teams (team sports, relay races) is a particularly desirable employer initiative.
Team games and competitive challenges can be held in a hybrid format, for example with live training and online announcement of results. Since employees should be supported in their efforts to get fit, in addition to MultiSport cards, they can be provided with access to an online workout platform. A good example here is Yes2Move available in MultiLife packages. As an added advantage of this benefit, employees can, for example, seek the advice of a personal trainer.
There’re no longer any obstacles preventing team-building trips and meetings. These activities are especially important for distributed teams. In companies implementing an individual or variable/rotating model, such events, spanning a few days and involving, for example, educational and competitive pursuits, may be the only opportunity for many employees to meet their colleagues in person.
However, employers should always listen to their team first and adjust the team-building formula to employees’ needs. It’s a good strategy, for example, to allocate a ‘window’ for customer contact teams  to avoid frustration upon returning from a several days’ event.
To bring teams back together again after returning to the office, you need take a fresh look at your office premises. The Colliers company recommends dedicated team rooms for working on projects together and focus rooms which are well suited to one-to-one meetings . Another idea to consider is setting up a common space for relaxation or shared meals.
A key issue is smart planning of in-office days – an adequate number of conference rooms or team/focus rooms will help your team-building efforts run smoothly. Remote work days can then be devoted to individual focused tasks, while in-office work days can be used for brainstorming, meetings, and training sessions.
Whatever the model, hybrid working remains a challenge for companies. However, it’s important to embrace that challenge as soon as possible. The hybrid work formula is likely to stay with us for longer. And quite rightly so, as it combines the efficiency of working from home with the benefits of in-office work. In addition, it provides an opportunity to harness new technologies and save office space, while making it more worker-friendly and better tailored to the needs of employees.
A well-bonded team is a great asset for every company. Consequently, any initiatives taken in the areas discussed above are sure to pay dividends both for individual employees and the organization as a whole.
- Raport Benefit Systems „Zmęczeni, obojętni, niezaangażowani. Postpandemiczne potrzeby pracowników” 2022.