Wouldn’t it be great to hang out with your colleagues again? A lot of us are craving some casual banter as we sit around a table at the local pub with our teammates.

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Unfortunately, whenever this will happen again is still pretty uncertain for most of us. Some companies have made bold statements about their plans to embrace hybrid work, whilst others are determined to re-instate the return to the office as quickly as possible.

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Twitter, for example, had been planning to implement a remote work policy for 2 years before the pandemic. The need to work remotely only accelerated them into the future of work as Jennifer Christie, Twitter’s HR officer, has said. On the flipside, there are companies like Goldman Sachs who are eager to get back to the way things were, believing remote work to be an “aberration” on team-culture. (Source: Insider).

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How companies navigate this is more than just a matter of policy. It could make or break their future. Nearly half of workers are considering leaving their jobs post-pandemic if they aren’t offered flexible working options, according to Envoy’s Return to the Workplace Report. This highlights how important it is for employees to keep the flexibility they have grown accustomed to, and are willing to quit to get the work life they want.

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This period between lockdown and the return to a ‘new normal’ is what we at Steamed Egg are calling ‘The Great Transition’. It will involve going back to the office and forward into a hybrid work place. There are many lessons to take with us from lockdown life as we move into the new working world. Allowing people to have more flexibility and to own their schedules has proved invaluable to some companies, which is why many of them are embracing hybrid as the future of work. However, the pandemic has also taught us how invaluable face-to-face contact is.

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During this period of uncertainty, many leaders aren’t arranging team building activities or social events until they know for sure what’s going on. This could be a recipe for trouble in your culture. The promise of returning to the office ‘some time soon’ won’t be enough to alleviate people’s social needs.

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It’s more important than ever to take care of your people and nurture their relationships so they feel like they belong. This belonging will help people stay motivated and socially fulfilled as we pass through The Great Transition.

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How important is social connection to your team’s performance?

Culture Amp recently conducted a survey asking people who had left their jobs what their reasons were for leaving. These were three main reasons:

1 – Career Growth: People want to know their efforts will be recognised and rewarded.

2 – Role Expectations: People want the job that was advertised to them, they don’t want to be burdened with extra responsibility that they didn’t sign up for.

3 – Inclusion: People who left the company were less likely to feel like they belonged there.

That’s how real this is. If your team doesn’t feel like they belong, they’re more likely to quit or, at the least, get burnt out by a lack of high quality social interaction. And you don’t want that either!

Your people need to know that you’re there for them. While everyone is hyper-focused on the future of work and what it means for them, you need to remind your team that you care about them today.

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You can make sure you’re not neglecting your team culture by doing a few simple things:

  1. Renew your values, team mission and shared sense of purpose. People need to know what they’re doing matters.
  2. Give them something fun and exciting to look forward to. Whether that’s in-person meetups in small groups, virtual events, or a mix of the two. A social event could really help with the mental health and wellbeing of your team by bringing them together even if they’re physically apart.
  3. Give them a vision for what their work life looks like over the next year. How much flexibility will they have? How much in-office time is expected and available to them? This might change as time goes on but giving people something concrete will let your team know you’re looking out for them.

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The Great Transition will be a tumultuous and complicated time for many of us, just like the beginning of the pandemic was. And just like then, we need to be here for each other.

With a whole year having flown by in isolation, we’ve gotten used to working in solitude. Introverts have relished in it, extroverts have struggled with it, and ambiverts have experienced a bit of both.

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By focusing on your teammates need for social contact and continuing to create space for your people to come together, you will help them feel like they belong. Belonging is a key ingredient to creating a thriving, healthy team that is able to take on the uncertainty of The Great Transition.

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