Published on October 21st, 2014 | by Ashley Sheets
Nurturing Connectivity in the Workplace
How can business leaders create a sense of connection and shared passion in their organisations? How can anyone make their employees (and by extension their business) more productive and more innovative instead of struggling to maintain the status quo?
The idea of “connectivity in the workplace” has entered the zeitgeist, becoming another thing to aim for amongst ethically-minded business people. Now, the focus is not just internally, on communications and relationships between staff, but is also directed outside of the business, to clients and the organisation’s public or audience.
Marketer, prolific author, and business communications guru Seth Godin says “your job is to find the right tribe, connect, and create a culture of being that tribe. There are disconnected people out there in business who are waiting for you to show up.”
But what does that mean – really? And how can we go about connecting with those disconnected people once we finally ‘show up’? By doing so, will we create a more authentic and ethically driven businesses?
Aren’t we already connected?
When looking at the technology available to us today, it is easy to come to the conclusion that, of course, everyone is connected! Smartphones, round the clock work schedules, video conferencing, social media, and all the various gadgets that we use that make it nearly impossible to tune out – these keep us all connected to one another in a very literal sense.
But what about beyond that? How do we really connect on a very visceral, authentic level to the people that are the very heart of our businesses? How do we empower, encourage, and motivate workers to feel like they are as much a part of the workplace as the owners and the clients, to feel their thoughts and opinions just as important?
Creating true connectivity
In order to create and nurture a true sense of connectivity in the workplace, a sense of passion for the work must be shared by all employees. Of course, not everyone will harbour the same feelings regarding the big (and small) stuff that happens within a business. But with a shared passion as the backbone, a sense of ownership of the work and what happens to the business is just as important to the emotional well-being of a workforce as any number of extra holidays and free office breakfasts.
So how can you foster connectivity in your business? Here are three tips for fostering those important relationships that keep everything moving.
The idea of mindfulness is increasingly in the spotlight, with even the NHS offering tips on how to practice it. Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. But in the workplace, it can help employees to enhance creativity and communication, resolve conflicts, and build up teamwork. By learning to be awake to someone else’s point of view, the pathways of connection become more clear. Mindfulness training can create a more successful and pleasant workplace where people can remain objective, be responsive rather than reactive, be compassionate in their dialogues with others, and effectively manage stress. And check out the wonderful site http://www.calm.com/ which leads you through a guided meditation lasting anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes if you need a bit of help getting started.
With mindfulness at the forefront, the next step in nurturing office connectivity is to focus on the communication that is taking place. Transparency and honesty should be a priority in communication, whether that is a dialogue between employer and employee, client and consultant, between colleagues, and so on. This does not mean adopting personas, or ignoring the fact that it is normal to treat your coworkers and your clients a bit differently! But it does mean having a purpose in what you are saying (read more from Pete over at Conscious Business on this idea), reflecting honesty through speech (even if what you have to say isn’t particularly pleasant), and not being afraid to say when you don’t know something, or when something makes you uncomfortable. And don’t forget to listen. Listening is an integral part of the communication process, if staff feel listened to, and good listening skills are practised, connectivity will be fostered within the business.
There are a few ways to look at collaboration. Aesthetically, flexible and customisable spaces that accommodate a variety of working situations and are suitable for both the introverts and extroverts among the workforce are becoming easier to find. For example, Brighton-based business Posture People completed an office redesign for gaming company Boss Alien that allowed for shared work spaces but also used a variety of acoustic panels to manage sound in a large space,this way, the physical issues of collaboration were cleverly addressed. Another company, Payette has written extensively about connectivity in workplace design via open spaces and the dismissal of individual cubicles. Putting theory into practice can be as simple as holding meetings specifically based around sharing best practices, new ideas, and personal experiences, this is what happens at digital media consultancy We Are All Connected. A biweekly gathering brings together all employees over coffee to discuss “happiness and productivity”, providing a low-stress, collaborative environment for chat around work, while also promoting community, engagement, and transparency in the workplace.
With mindfulness, communication, and collaboration serving as the foundations for your ethical business practices, you will be sure to foster a sense of connectivity in your office, which by proxy will have an effect on the productivity of your team. And with these pieces in place, you will soon begin to see the repercussions of these positive actions rippling outward through all of your communications, inside and outside of the workplace, nurturing the connections that so deeply affect all of our lives.