Watercooler 2.0: Maintain Connection And Maximise Collaboration In Remote/Blended Workforces

In a post-lockdown world, remote workers face a common challenge: the lack of genuine connection. Learn how to bridge the gap and create a thriving remote team.

In our post-lockdown world, my clients are increasingly asking for help with the challenges of managing and leading teams who work fully or partly from home.

What’s the challenge?

Pre-lockdown, many of our most crucial relationships formed in the workplace.

“Watercooler conversations”, lunch in the cafeteria and after-work drinks all created genuine connection with colleagues – what psychologists call “social capital”.

And it is this social capital that enables collaboration and enhances our sense of connection at work.

But with the move to remote and blended working models, these crucial workplace relationships are becoming less common –  and staff are suffering.

According to recent studies, the shift to remote work has taken a toll on employee well-being and mental health. Elevated stress levels have become a common complaint among remote workers, with the lack of in-person interaction and social support systems contributing to feelings of isolation and disconnection.

What’s more, without the daily interactions and casual conversations that used to occur naturally in the office, employees are experiencing a decline in morale, motivation, and overall job satisfaction.

The root of the problem

For most organisations, flexible work agreements are here to stay.

So it’s time to adapt.

The good news? Where employees are working from isn’t the root of the problem.

The real issue is how they choose to communicate with one another.

The Brady Bunch array of faces on Zoom and Teams can leave employees feeling disengaged in meetings. Many use the time to multitasking (eg. checking emails).

Relying on products like Slack makes things even worse by removing the nonverbal content of communication

The result? Conversations are less attuned and relational and the sense of connection within teams has eroded.

Sadly, even having employees in the office part of the week doesn’t necessarily solve this problem. Many tell me that when time in the office is limited, the sense of pressure to get everything done makes them even more transactional and task-focused.

The solution? Create a mindful communication culture

As a leader, you have the opportunity to reverse this trend and create a culture of  increased connection and belonging..

But how can you create this new culture?

I’ve taught all sorts of techniques to my clients since lockdown began to help them bring back that sense of belonging.

Mindful communication is one of the most effective.

It’s a practice that brings deep presence and intention to our dialogues.

People who use it report feeling heard, understood and attended to. They also report feeling a much deeper sense of authentic connection to one another.

Mindful communication is also one of the foundations of psychological safety – which turns out to be the single biggest factor in high functioning teams (I’ll say more about that in my next email).

How Does It Work?

Mindful communication has two parts
1. Mindful listening (also known as active listening)
2. Mindful speech (also known as Non-Violent Communication)

Let’s start with mindful listening. I’ll map out mindful speach in my next piece.

The beauty of mindful listening is that it doesn’t really matter what you’re talking about. If you practise mindful listening, the person who you’re speaking with will instantly feel a greater sense of connection and attunement.

Here’s a short video (less than 10 minute) that will teach you and your team how to apply this crucial skill, quickly and easily.

By practising and promoting mindful listening, you can instil a new culture of care through communication throughout your organisation.

Wishing you all the best applying this powerful tool with your team.

Richard Chambers.

Ps. Here’s how you can receive my support to instil Mindful Listening in your organisational culture (or learn the skills for yourself).

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