During the pandemic, many of us have become more isolated than before. Community, which the authors define as a group of people who share a concern for each other’s welfare, has proven difficult to cultivate, especially for those working virtually. To learn more, they conducted a survey with the Women’s Congress, which surveyed nearly 1,500 participants about their sense of community at work before and after the pandemic, and found a 37 percent drop in community awareness. When people had a sense of community at work, they found they were 58% more likely to thrive at work, 55% more likely to engage, and 66% more likely to remain in the organization. They experience significantly less stress and are also more likely to thrive outside of work. People can create communities in a variety of ways, and preferences may vary based on their backgrounds and interests. The authors describe several ways companies have successfully built a sense of work community that leaders can consider emulating in their own organizations.
Create opportunities for mutual learning.
After creating an in-house training university a few years ago, the stock consultancy Motley Fool realized that teachers get more out of it than students. This feedback led to a vibrant coaching program in which about 10 percent of employees acted as coaches for other employees. For many people, being a coach is their favorite part of their job. Chief People Officer Lee Burbage said: “When you think about career advancement and growth, your mind tends to get stuck in ‘what’s my current role? What am I doing?’…we really try to encourage support Projects…taking a teaching role, taking a coaching role, being a leader in one of our ERGs, that sort of thing.” Burbage went on to describe how the company has been able to learn from each other in a less formal way by having employees Helping to develop a sense of community:
We sent out [staff] with incredible fun and incredible effect, saying, “Hey, someone Really good at something and interested in teaching people?” All they have to do is set up a Zoom call. We have everything from DJ classes to butchery classes. How to make a drink, how to sew. Leverage your employees and the skills they may already have, they will be happy to teach others, especially in a virtual world, this creates a great lesson and again creates an opportunity for them to progress, grow and meet new people .
Harness the power of nostalgia.
Research shows that shared memories of positive past events and achievements, such as birthday dinners, anniversaries, retreats, or weekend trips, can last and help maintain morale. Nostalgia can help counteract anxiety and loneliness, encourage people to be more generous to each other, and build resilience. Research also shows that people are better at coping with work stress when they feel nostalgic a few minutes before the start of their workday. Figure out ways to bring employees together for memorable events outside of work. Christine recently spoke on the sidelines of Jones & Walker LLP’s Anniversary Leadership Celebration. After the meeting, we headed to the Washington Nationals Baseball Stadium, where we toured the ballpark, enjoyed ballpark favorites, and had a chance to practice batting.
Eat or cook together.
In 2015, Jeremy Andrus, who took over as CEO of Traeger Grills in 2014, decided to reboot the toxic culture , and relocated corporate headquarters to Utah. There, Andrus strives to create a positive physical environment for his employees. As part of this, employees cook breakfast together every Monday morning and lunch Tuesday through Friday. As he puts it, “Preparing food for and with colleagues is a way of showing that we care about each other.” According to the 2020 Pulse Survey, Traeger Grills employees rated culture an average of nine out of 10, with 91% of People express feeling connected to the company’s vision, mission, and values. Cooking and eating together is more than just a community builder. The researchers conducted interviews at 13 fire stations, followed by a survey of 395 supervisors. They found that eating together had a positive effect on job performance. These benefits may be reinforced by the cooperative behavior behind firefighters’ dining habits: collecting money, shopping, menu planning, cooking, and cleaning. Taken together, all these common activities lead to stronger job performance. Find a way to get employees to get together for dinner. For example, invite the team to a takeaway lunch in a conference room, or organize a walk to a nearby restaurant for a brainstorming or networking event. You can also have team members cook an elaborate meal together offsite as a way to figure out how to collaborate on things outside of their usual scope.
Insert your local community.
Kim Malek, co-founder of ice cream company Salt & Straw, creates a sense of meaning and connection between employees, customers, and the larger community in which her store is located. From the outset, Kim and her cousin and co-founder Tyler Malek “turned to their community, turning to friends — chefs, chocolatiers, brewers and farmers — for advice and inspiration wherever they saw it. .” Kim and Tyler have partnered with Oregon State University and the Oregon Innovation Center, a partnership with the Department of Agriculture, to help companies support the local food industry and farmers. Kim Malik told Kristin that every ice cream flavor on their menu “has a guy we work with and whose story we can tell. So that sense of community is reflected in the ice cream you eat.” On the personnel side, Salt & Straw has partnered with local community group Emerging Leaders, which brings BIPOC students into paid internships, and the Women’s Justice Project (WJP), which helps formerly incarcerated women in Oregon Rejoin the community. They also partnered with DPI Staffing to create jobs for people with disabilities and criminal records, and hired 10 people as part of the program. Salt & Straw partnered with local schools to host their annual Student Inventor Series, inviting kids to invent a new flavor of ice cream. Not only did the winner make their ice cream, but they read it to their school at an assembly, and the whole school got free ice cream. Last year, Salt & Straw hosted a “rad reader” series, inviting kids to submit their wildest stories, attached to proposed ice cream flavors. Salt & Straw finds ways to engage and engage with communities to help people thrive. It creates meaning for its own community while uplifting others.
Create a virtual shared experience.
Develop ways for your employees to connect through shared experiences, even when they’re working virtually. Sanjay Amin, Head of YouTube Music + Premium Subscription Partnerships, will share a personal story, suggesting teams listen to the same album, or try a recipe together. It is individual and voluntary. He told Kristin he was trying to set the tone by being “an open book” and showing his human side through vulnerability. Armin also sent his team members an “in-depth question card” the day before the team meeting. It is completely optional, but allows people to speak and share their thoughts, experiences and feelings in order to answer a deep question – eg:
- If you could give everyone the same superpower, which superpower would you choose? What life lesson do you hope everyone learns in school?
He told Kristin, “Like Interesting, interesting questions like this give each of us the opportunity to quickly gain insight into how we see the world in a unique way”, and people recognize shared humanity and bonds. EXOS, a coaching company, has a new program, Game Changer, a six-week experience designed to rethink what it means to maintain performance and career success in the long run. Vice President Ryan Capps told Kristin, “Work will never go back to the way it was. We see an opportunity to help people not only survive but thrive.” In Game Changer, members are in Work with EXOS performance coaches and industry experts to address obstacles that may prevent them from reaching their fullest potential at work or in life. Members learn science-based strategies that deepen their curiosity, awaken their creativity, and help them maintain energy and focus. The program structure combines weekly individual self-led challenges with real-time team-based virtual meetups and accountability to provide community and support. Those who completed Game Changer called it “transformative,” with 70% of participants saying their stress was lessened and 91% saying it “rekindled their enthusiasm and purpose.”
Make breaks and updates a team effort.
Burnout is rampant and has surged during the pandemic. In our most recent survey, we found that only 10% of respondents take daily breaks, 50% take only one or two breaks per week, and 22% say they never take breaks. Keeping distance from technology is especially challenging, with only 8% of respondents saying they distance themselves from all technology on a daily basis. Consider together what you can do to focus on recovery. Tony Schwartz speaks to Christine about the work his team does with the team from Ernst & Young. In 2018, the team had been working on a particularly challenging project during a busy season, resulting in exhausted team members, low morale, and most leaving the company afterward. To change that, the 40-person EY team, in partnership with the Energy Project, developed a collective “resilience boot camp” in 2019 focused on teaching people to rest more, rest better, to manage them physical, emotional and mental energy during particularly stressful times. As a follow-up, every other week during the busy 14 weeks, EY staff participated in a one-hour group coaching session, during which team members discussed setbacks and challenges and supported each other as they tried to embrace new recovery procedures. Each participant is paired with another teammate for extra personal support and accountability. Accountants completed their work in less time due to the significant change in beh avior and agreed to take a weekend off a week during this stressful period. “Based on these changes, employees can cut 12 to 20 hours a week while doing the same amount of work,” Schwartz told Kristin. By the end of the 2019 peak season, team members felt significantly better than at the end of 2018. This EY team had a 97.5% retention rate five months after the peak season, when accounting teams typically lose staff due to burnout and burnout. Schwartz told Kristin that his main takeaway from that experience was “the power of community.” . . . Community can be a survival tool – a way for people to get through challenging things together – and help people recover from Survive towards prosperity. It also makes people more likely to stay with your organization, as we found. What can you do to help build a sense of community?