One thing the pandemic has taught nearly all of us is that working from home is very different to working from the office or workplace.
Much as the national effort to keep going by sticking to remote working has had to be admired, it has come at something of a cost.
Evidence suggests it has led to increased employee stress and burnout – with the boundaries between home and worklife increasingly blurred – but it has also eroded the team spirit and ethos so vital for companies to survive.
So now we are heading back to the workplace, what can good leaders do to ensure their teams start to feel like teams again. How do we build the sort of complex working relationships which help all our colleagues get the most out of work and bring the most to it?
Here are five tips for raising the sense of belonging amongst your staff:
- Set clear goals and ambitions
It is a lot easier for staff to follow you if they know where they are going. Don’t just assume that your people know the ambitions you have for the company – spell them out. And do it in a way which engages all of them in a shared vision.
This doesn’t need to be a complex masterplan – just make sure everyone is pulling in the same direction by telling them what that direction should be, and how their role is crucial to its success. Creating a feeling of shared ownership will lead to much greater input than simply delivering a top-down message with little thought for how it impacts staff.
- Lead by doing, not just saying
The old maxim about walking the walk as well as talking the talk will be vital as we pull out of the pandemic. Staff will want to see that their leaders not only have the vision, but that they are willing to stand with them at all times in the next few months.
Just passing down commands as if you are an army general safely tucked away from the front line is not likely to build any of the sense of belonging you are trying to nurture in your staff here. You have to show that you are prepared to get stuck in, roll up your sleeves and do as you say if you want to win their respect.
- Be serious about belonging
Staff will see through insincerity in this straight away. If you talk about belonging but do little else you will simply alienate your workforce even more.
Once you start down this path you have to do it with total commitment. Talk to your staff regularly, listen to them and the points they raise and try to see work from their point of view.
Respond to problems in a way which is inclusive and structural, rather than shutting something down in the short term only for it to fester and build into something even more problematic over time.
Put in place a structure which helps this process by ensuring staff have regular access to you, that their input is taken seriously and that there are rewards for meeting the shared goals which have been set out. By working with your staff at all stages, you will help build a two-way relationship which deepens their sense of loyalty and commitment.
- Be a mentor
A hugely effective way to step beyond being a boss and becoming a trusted leader is to become a mentor to staff.
Rather than just firing off directives or issuing disciplinary judgements, seek to work with your people to build their own sense of self worth in their role.
Listen to your employees, offer support and show empathy. Build really powerful feedback mechanisms into your company and make the personal development of each and every member of staff a priority.
- Be open
If you want to truly break down barriers you need to be open yourself. Make sure staff know that you are always available to talk through their problems, listen to their ideas, help them make the most of themselves and grow with the company.
If you share and discuss more, it’s inevitable that the same approach will filter down through your company. The results will be well worth it.