Has remote and hybrid working impacted the way we build relationships at work? Undoubtedly yes.
Just before the pandemic started to make its presence felt in the UK, the Institute of Leadership & Management conducted research that revealed employees were 10 times more likely to stay in their job because of the friendships they had made over a good salary.
Not really surprising, right? We used to spend more time with the people we worked with than anyone else; treading the same carpets, using the same microwaves (who microwaves fish for lunch? criminal) and breathing the same conditioned air. It makes sense that we’d get the most enjoyment out of our time in the office by actually being friends with the people around us.
Fast forward 2 years and for all of us non-essential office-based workers, the way we spend our time between 9am and 5:30pm is almost unrecognisable. For long stretches we worked 100% virtually, missing out on the everyday social interactions we used to enjoy – silly, non-work chat while making a cup of tea, or popping out for lunch with a friend from another team.
Of course there were benefits to the new ‘office’ environment. Families could spend more time together, no more stressful commute and worrying about being late, and Amazon deliveries were never missed.
But our networks have undeniably shrunk. People starting new jobs during the pandemic and graduates entering the workplace spent weeks or even months not meeting their team in person. And even with the advent of hybrid working, many organisations have reduced or in some cases scrapped their physical offices altogether.
How do you build a meaningful relationship when you have Teams reminding you that there are 5 minutes left of your meeting? How do you feel comfortable to ask those ‘newbie’ questions when you can’t just lean across a desk? How do you create human leaders who get the best out of their team when human interactions are filtered through a screen?
Now, we have to admit that we couldn’t find any research that shows conclusively that friendships are no longer the top reason people would stay in their jobs. But what we do know is that if we want to keep our people happy, engaged and connected, we need to give them the skill of ‘intentional relationships’.
Intentional relationships is about creating and maintaining relationships from a place of trust, respect and understanding. Elke Edwards, Founder of Ivy House, explains:
“We’re barely ever taught how to communicate effectively within our relationships. I’ve spent years coaching super-smart, successful leaders who often have disastrous relationships with their direct reports, partners or children. Add a virtual environment into the mix and it becomes even more challenging.”
That’s why we need to start by understanding what a relationship is, what behaviours are you putting in, and how to have truly effective conversations that are the glue that holds a relationship together.
What energy are you and your people bringing to your relationships? Are you a drain or a radiator? What beliefs are you showing up with, about yourself or the other person?
These are all crucial questions we tackle head on as part of the Ivy House programmes. It can make people feel uncomfortable to take such a deep look at themselves and their relationships, but it can also make all the difference to their enjoyment of life inside and outside out work.
The impact of hybrid working on learning, culture and connection is huge and it’s no longer enough to assume people will just know how to build brilliant relationships – we need to be far more intentional about developing this critical skill. Watch the recording of our event that focused on exactly how to do that.