Getting workers back in the office may not be the solution alone for worker satisfaction and productivity.
With business teams now getting back together in the workplace after primarily working remotely during the pandemic, it’s an ideal time to implement change and make sure your team is feeling a renewed sense of satisfaction, high engagement, and maximum productivity. These people are your most important assets, and you can’t succeed in business if they are not happy and healthy.
In my experience advising businesses, large and small, I have often been surprised by the level of complacency and general malaise I find in the ranks, with a resultant direct loss of productivity and competitiveness. The specifics have been highlighted well in a new book I just read, “Work Here Now: Think Like a Human and Build a Powerhouse Workplace,” by Melissa Swift at Mercer.
In addition to defining the problem, she makes concrete suggestions on how to change work for the better, taking advantage of new technologies, and new thinking brought about by this new era. I will summarize here her key strategy suggestions, with my own insights, for working within teams, while keeping the people effective, and creating more value for the business than ever before:
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1. Create a safe, nonjudgmental space to talk with you.
Team members need to feel comfortable in the office conversing about less significant work concerns, and how they are feeling day to day, without fear of reprisals or judgment. Both you and they will learn how to work together more effectively, and understand what changes are needed.
A key to success is for you take the initiative and make the conversation about the other person. People love to talk about their work, and they will find something worth talking about that adds value. The result is trust built in you and a positive feeling on both sides.
2. Put away permanently your “suck it up” voice.
We’ve all been there. If you want teamwork to change for the better, make that voice shut up. Listen more and talk less, to learn what changes you can make without blame or emotion. The best relationships allow for informal conversations about concerns that can be acted on later.
In addition to the right words, be sure you present the right body language. The way you communicate nonverbally is often more important than the words you use, so I recommend you keep your nonverbal cues professional and friendly in all discussions.
3. Be curious about work items you don’t understand.
Leaders who can identify what of their team’s work eludes their understanding, and how to ask about it without either feeling threatened or conveying a threat to the teams, can help their team work better and avoid inefficiencies posed by you not completely understanding what the people do.
I assure you there is no shame to being humble about understanding the complexities of team job assignments, and team members are typically pleased to convey their special skills, work techniques, and challenges today. Let that be part of their job satisfaction.
4. Develop metrics to monitor work intensity.
Work intensity could be anything from the number of meetings in a day, to the number of production line emergencies, to the number of angry customers during a shift. High work intensity causes stress and fatigue, which you can mitigate, for example, by making sure meetings end a few minutes before the hour.
These metrics are also the best way to gauge when your team needs more help, and to identify strong and weak contributors. I find that one of the biggest contributors to team health and satisfaction is a feeling by all that you understand workload allocation.
5. Never encourage or reward performative work.
Some team members feel they have to perform or show off by talking excessively in meetings, always staying late at work, or over-reporting to you on their every move. You can counter positively by encouraging everyone to go home on time, managing meetings carefully, and coaching positively.
I am convinced the performative work problem really became more visible during the recent pandemic. For example, team members working from home felt they had to be constantly connected, working or not, in order to prove that they were busy, busy, busy.
With these strategies, and others that you can add from your own experience, I believe it is now an ideal time to think bigger than more time off, free lunches, and better game rooms. Let’s rethink how we work, and make the more radical changes we need to get our teams back on track in this new fast-moving global economy, to be more engaged as well as more competitive.