The future of work means tailoring culture to employees’ interests
The BBC recently posted an article about how the pandemic had ended the practice of “mandatory fun” in the office. With everyone working from home, there was no opportunity to have birthday parties, company lunches or team-building activities.
For many staff, this was a welcome change. As I’ve talked with clients about returning to the office, many shared their dread in resuming time-consuming office activities and commutes that decrease their productivity. It’s a common sentiment and one that leaders would be wise to take note of.
Team-building and “fun” activities have long been considered necessary to help a team collaborate better and increase employee engagement. But as the BBC article notes, “If the ultimate goal of office fun is to facilitate team bonding, it’ll work a lot better if nobody feels obligated to attend.” In fact, many employees consider obligatory extracurricular activities a corporate cult, not culture.
One of the encouraging aspects of everyone working from home the last two years is employees became bolder in demanding work-life balance and disengaging from superfluous activities. Instead, employees found ways to connect with each other outside of structured events that leaders chose for them.
It’s part of the great decentralization taking place in the workplace. Instead of a committee of people at the top telling the rest of the staff how to have fun or build their team, employees were able to create their own ways to connect and collaborate. It’s a critical shift to move from mandates handed down from above to actually listening to what employees really want and need.
There are two essential things leaders can do for building a strong culture:
Provide an inspiring, purposeful vision for the company
John Mackey shares in his book Conscious Leadership, “Purpose is central to motivation.” The primary job of conscious leaders is to connect people to purpose. Once they understand their purpose in accomplishing the organization’s vision, they will find internal motivation (i.e., engagement).
How well are you defining an inspiring vision that transcends short-term profit or success?
Are you able to articulate that vision and then tie it to the everyday actions of your team?
Listen to employees
It’s surprising how often leadership hires external consultants or relies on its own insular views to make decisions for their staff. Why not create regular, reliable feedback loops where employees can share what they want and need? This is a significant mental shift from “You need to do this” to “What would be most helpful to you?”
The pandemic changed people’s priorities. They want connection, but they want it to be meaningful and worth the time away from family and personal interests. In order to continue building strong organizations, leaders must listen to how employees want to spend their time.
What systems do you have in place to listen to each team member?
How do you act on the information you hear?
Now is the time to reconsider how we build teams and nurture their growth. It means tailoring activities to the actual needs of staff and empowering them to connect and collaborate in meaningful ways. We may not have all the answers right away on how to do that as we enter this new era of work. But we have the chance to create new, more fulfilling ways of working and relating if we focus on providing purpose and genuinely listening.
Work happy. Live happy. BE happy.
The way we work and build teams is rapidly changing. Leaders often feel unprepared to navigate the transition. As a conscious leadership coach, consultant and communicator, Meredith helps leaders and their teams create new ways of working and relating so they can prepare for the future by consciously co-creating it.
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