Tommy serves as the President at ThreeWill. In this role, he works with his leadership team to hire the best people, find the right business opportunities, and ensure that ThreeWill delivers for our clients on projects.
Hybrid work environments for some companies are here to stay. At ThreeWill, we embrace the benefits of a hybrid workplace and look for ways to mitigate the drawbacks. We have found a key area of risk in the team cohesiveness. We don’t want our employees to feel like they are not part of a team, and we are intentional about keeping team bonds.
Technology can be a part of that mitigation strategy, but it goes beyond technology. You need to find new ways to create emotional bonds between your employees. Here are 3 tips I have for improving the emotional bonds between your employees.
Mandatory In-Person Meetings
Many companies request employees to return to work, but the strategy has revolved around utilizing an existing office. When bringing employees back, they tend not to simultaneously get everyone back into the office. People are frustrated with coming to a half-empty office. Even companies that make this mandatory are not experiencing a full office.
We have found that you must be intentional to get the whole team together for some face-to-face time. We have at least a quarterly frequency of truly getting the whole team together and making that a high-value experience for the employees and the company. In-person interactions build relationships and trust. That investment into relationship and trust pays off in the efficiency of the work. Trust does create speed in decision-making and team alignment.
Some companies have this mandatory meeting annually, bi-annually, or even monthly. Our sweet spot is every quarter. It is an approach that takes preparation and additional capital investment. You must coordinate activities that benefit from face-to-face time (like brainstorming, team building, and company planning). When we do this, we bring all employees together in one place and have a name for it. We call it “ThreeWill All Days.” We have the food catered and ensure we have activities that invest in the relationships between our team members.
Regularly Scheduled Optional Activities
People in your organization will need more frequent interactions than once a quarter. You need to find activities during and after hours for these employees to feed that appetite for in-person social activity. You want these to be scheduled. That way, people know that coming to the office or an event will have others there vs. relying on randomly coming to the office and hoping to find others there for social interaction. At ThreeWill, we have a weekly Delivery Team meeting followed by a group lunch and a drink after work from 5-6:30 p.m. at Whole Foods for $3 local draft beer (or any other beverage of choice). This has become a great way to stay connected every week.
Note that you will have some people who need social interaction a few days each week. We are finding that co-working facilities are a way to meet that social need. Co-working facilities create a social environment without relying on coordinating when people will be in the office. Not an option for all companies, but we have been experimenting with it and getting good results.
Turning on Video for Web Meetings
This might seem to be a “no duh” suggestion, but I have been very surprised with how reluctant people are to turn on video for web meetings. You can overcome this reluctance to use webcams by suggesting a blurred background or a background image (like your favorite vacation spot) if they are not situated where they can share their video.
A video feed is critical to getting the most out of your meetings. You will often find non-verbal cues help you know when to slow down, speed up, or restate a point based on visual cues. With web meetings, you are in danger of weakening your team’s relationships due to a lack of information by not seeing people’s body language. Leveraging video is a helpful way to avoid frustrations from the lack of information needed to run an effective meeting.
Because of the challenges of web meetings, I suggest finding ways to trade out a remote meeting for an in-person one. It will be better for your emotional health and can make up for the effort of getting dressed and wading through traffic.
I hope you find these tips helpful. I am sharing these tips based on what has worked for us at ThreeWill. This is a journey, and we don’t feel we have arrived yet. Let me know in the comments below what you would add as additional tips. Remote meetings can erode your culture, so find a way to mix it up and be in person!