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  • Writer's pictureMbali Chaise

The Power of Human Connections in the Modern Workplace

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Nurturing Cohesive Teams and Driving Change

Human Connection by Zinavarta

In this article, I'll be sharing key insights and takeaways from our recent webinar panel discussion on Navigating the New Workplace, where we explored the transformative power of human connection in driving change and fostering cohesive teams in a remote-centric world. Our knowledgeable panellists discussed a broad array of topics, including building strong networks, conflict management, effective communication strategies, and driving organisational change, all of which are distilled in this article.



Let us begin...

In the ever-evolving landscape of today's workplaces, navigating conflicts, driving change, and maintaining cohesive teams can be challenging. As companies grow and evolve, teams frequently find themselves spread across various geographical locations. This often results in communication challenges and a diminished sense of mutual understanding among team members. Yet, even as technological advancements propel the trend towards remote work, one crucial element continues to hold its ground: the profound influence of human connections.



The Paradox of Dispersed Teams & Empowering Leaders for Effective Relationships


As technology enables remote work and virtual interactions, the paradox of dispersed teams emerges. While it offers flexibility and convenience, it may inadvertently erode the essential human connections necessary for fostering trust and understanding among team members.

The absence of physical proximity can lead to misinterpretations, misunderstandings, and a lack of cohesiveness within teams.


In the modern corporate landscape, conflicts and challenges often arise within organisations due to a lack of cohesiveness within teams. Andreas Hoffbauer - Founder and Director at Atelier Kultur, sheds light on the breakdown in communication and effectiveness that occurs when employees venture beyond their primary working groups, particularly in large organisations. The difficulties escalate when there is limited access to essential information, and the decision-making process becomes shrouded in ambiguity.


To address these issues head-on, Andreas advocates for empowering leaders to cultivate more effective relationships and connections between different teams. Central to this approach are strategically aligned teams, strategically structured to foster strong inter-team relationships. Rather than relying solely on one or two individuals, organisations must actively encourage the development of robust connections among ALL team members. By doing so, a culture of trust and support can be nurtured, allowing employees to lean on their trusted colleagues to gather necessary information, even if personal relationships with other teams are lacking.


Embracing this network of trust not only enhances collaboration but also serves as a potent tool to combat burnout and work-related anxiety, ultimately nurturing a harmonious and productive work environment.



The Value of In-Person Interactions

Lisa Dominick - Director of HR Strategy at U.S. Bank, vividly highlights the transformative power of human connection in a remote work setting and her personal experience. While virtual communication serves its purpose, it cannot wholly replicate the authenticity of face-to-face interactions. Laughter shared, meals enjoyed, and heartfelt conversations in person; lay the foundation for trust, understanding, and camaraderie among team members. Leaders must recognise the profound significance of these in-person interactions and actively create opportunities for meaningful connections.


Lisa suggests that to make face-to-face interactions genuinely effective, it's beneficial to create a sense of FOMO, or fear of missing out. This can encourage younger employees to participate in events that strengthen and expand their relationships within the company. She points out that those employees who haven't had much exposure to informal in-person interactions, like casual chats around the water cooler or team social gatherings, might not fully understand their importance and value until they've had a taste of them. Team retreats, immersive workshops, or regular office gatherings provide the ideal backdrop for cultivating a cohesive team culture that thrives on trust and builds camaraderie.


By fostering these intentional events and creating an environment of enthusiasm and curiosity, businesses can motivate budding professionals to engage in person-to-person interactions with colleagues to forge strong bonds, exchange ideas, and collaborate in an environment that nurtures personal and professional growth while focusing on teamwork.



But how can we maintain such connections when physical presence is not always feasible?


Fostering Trust through Positive Intent & Effective Communication

Fildema Butler - Chief People Officer at Couchbase, provides valuable insights into key strategies for managing conflicts and driving positive change within teams. Recognising the nuances of virtual communication, Fildema emphasises the importance of assuming positive intent in all interactions. In the absence of face-to-face cues, misinterpretations and misunderstandings can easily arise. By encouraging team members to assume positive intent when messaging one another, potential conflicts can be mitigated, and a culture of trust can be fostered.


Moreover, Fildema advocates for the power of the old-fashioned method of picking up the phone to have conversations. Amidst a technological reliance on messaging platforms, verbal communication allows for a deeper understanding of the other person's perspective, workload, and commitments. This simple yet effective approach not only facilitates faster and clearer exchange of information but also reinforces a sense of connection and rapport among team members.


Recognising that remote work can limit in-person interactions, Fildema also emphasises the need for intentional face-to-face engagement. Utilising tools like video conferencing or arranging periodic in-person meetings, organisations can create compelling opportunities for employees to connect "in person", co-create, and collaborate. These gatherings help to instill a sense of shared purpose, promote effective communication, and strengthen relationships, ultimately driving positive change within the team and the organisation as a whole.



Creating Psychological Safety & Compelling Incentives for In-Person Connections

Kate Morris-Bates - Group Resources & Transformation Director at Harworth Group, highlights two essential factors for managing conflicts, driving change, and fostering a thriving team environment. She emphasises the significance of creating a psychologically safe environment within organisations before embarking on strategic plans. Psychological safety enables individuals to feel secure in expressing their opinions, taking risks, and contributing their unique perspectives without fear of judgment or retribution. By prioritising psychological safety, organisations can foster trust, build stronger relationships, and empower teams to navigate conflicts and embrace change with confidence.


Furthermore, Kate acknowledges the evolving nature of the workplace and the need to create compelling incentives for in-person connections. With remote work becoming increasingly prevalent, organisations must recognise the changing dynamics that drive employees' behaviours. By creating exciting spaces for collaboration, co-creation, and meaningful interactions, businesses can entice individuals to participate in in-person engagements. These spaces provide opportunities for employees to connect, learn from one another, and engage in activities that go beyond the limitations of virtual interactions. By infusing a sense of worth and value into these in-person experiences, organisations can drive change, spark innovation, and foster a sense of belonging among team members.



To conclude...

In an era defined by rapid technological advancement and remote work, the transformative power of human connections is more vital than ever before. Building cohesive teams, driving change, and nurturing a psychologically safe environment all revolve around the simple yet profound idea of fostering meaningful connections among colleagues.


Leaders must embrace creative strategies to maintain human connections, whether through in-person interactions, assuming positive intent in virtual communication, or reimagining the purpose of office spaces. By doing so, they can unlock the full potential of their teams, foster innovation, and navigate change with resilience and adaptability.


Ultimately, the ability to harness the power of human connections will not only determine the success of organisations in a changing world but also shape a more compassionate, inclusive, and forward-thinking future for the global workforce.



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