Have you been working from home? Are you planning for going back?

It is helpful to consider ways to rebuild our relationships at work and kindness will surely play its part.

5 steps to rebuild and strengthen your relationships at work

We are social beings and wonderful though it is to have been able to communicate in the virtual world so readily over the past months, we have also become aware of what we are missing out on.

We know from Albert Mehrabian’s research that the words we exchange form about 7% of the communication we receive from each other, with body language and tone of voice doing the lion’s share of the work (55% and 38% respectively).

We build trusting relationships as social beings and so without these cues, our closeness is undermined. Different people will be having very different experiences of these strange and challenging weeks, and it is unlikely to have felt easy for anyone to discuss some of their difficult feelings with each other in the virtual world.

So how can we think about our transition into being together again in a way which supports and repairs our relationships with each other?

Step 1: Come together again

We may well be thinking about going into our places of work gradually, perhaps different people on different days. It will be really helpful to do something which can mark your work community coming together again, to acknowledge:

  • any sad losses people have had

  • to be clear about any changes such as redundancies

  • to celebrate any spectacular efforts made to support others

  • to recognise some of the challenges people have had to face and so on.

Step 2: Rebuild relationships through helpful routines

Make time for relationships to rebuild – encourage:

  • getting together

  • making tea/coffee for each other

  • listening to how everyone is feeling

  • having regular work breaks together

  • being playful/having fun

  • checking in with each other

It will be a good time to make sure that each employee can think of a few people they could turn to in your organisation should they need someone to talk to. Everyone will need reassuring that their wellbeing does really matter, and that they are listened to and respected in their needs. It can be helpful to build routines which can support these things.

Step 3: Make clear the boundaries on social distancing

Make clear any new arrangements around social distancing, thinking together about ways to ensure that most people can feel comfortable enough to be in work. This will involve everyone in holding the boundaries which have been agreed. For any colleagues who may be continuing to work from home because of health needs, extra efforts to check in and keep them feeling involved and valued will be necessary.

Step 4: Reaffirm your values

Reaffirm your values as an organisation and make sure:

  • that there are systems in place to hear whether these values are in fact the lived experience of your employees

  • to celebrate all tiny kindnesses and successes in personal ways, to show clearly to people that they are valued and to communicate to everyone what it is you care most about.

Step 5: Reflect together

Take time to reflect together on the lockdown and working from home time and the ways in which your work felt different. Are there any things which were different in a way which might be helpful to continue with once everyone is back?

  • Did those who usually work remotely suddenly feel more connected to everyone else?

  • Has the situation had an impact on the nature of your work, or the future direction of your organisation?

Share these discussions as openly as possible.

All transition times come with a bit of uncertainty, fear, trepidation. In our workplaces we can choose to see this time as an opportunity for building stronger, more collaborative, emotionally healthy teams. We can create the kind of habits which will allow people to feel connected to the values and goals of the organisation through trusting, supportive relationships.

In order to support the transition of your team back to the office we now offer a series of webinars on Emotional Health in the workplace.

Mary Taylor, Head of Programmes at Family Links