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Healing the Disrupted Workplace: Connecting, Communicating, Climate Awareness, and Centering



Our world of work has changed. It’s faster, busier, less connected, and more disrupted than ever and so it’s challenging in new ways. Some challenges we’re prepared for and have strategies to navigate effectively. In fact, we may even invite or thrive on them! However, many of our clients have informed us that rather than creating energy and momentum, many challenges are draining and depleting them. They feel pretty consistently overwhelmed, disconnected, lacking information or clarity, and surrounded by tension, competition, or disrespect. That’s why prioritizing and fostering positive and productive environments – virtual, hybrid, or in-person – is crucial for the well-being and success of teams and organizations alike. We believe four key pillars play a significant role in healing the disrupted workplace: connection, communication, climate awareness, and centering.


Building Connections: The workplace is not just a place for completing tasks; it's a community where individuals spend a significant portion of their lives. But for many during the pandemic, that sense of community; of connection, was disrupted. Being physically distant resulted in social disconnection. We lost the organic “water cooler” conversations, the hallway chats and check-ins, the chatter at the conference table before the meeting started. In other words, we lost a lot of what helped people feel connected to one another. And in many teams, it hasn’t really returned. Why is this a problem? Without connection, we lose trust. And trust is the basis of functional teams and effective leadership. So, building connections isn’t about being “friends” with people at work.  It’s about building strong interpersonal relationships that support effective teamwork and foster positive atmospheres where individuals can contribute their best. 


Effective Communication: Communication is the backbone of any successful organization. We know most effective communication requires clarity, frequency, curiosity, and authenticity. We also know that when we have it in our teams, trust and productivity increase and stress and conflict decrease. So how is it that we can understand just how important effective communication is, and with all the channels, methods, and means we have at our disposal, be doing such a poor job of it?  A recent Forbes study found 89% of workers reporting that poor communication negatively affects them at work. More specifically:

  • 49% said it reduced productivity,

  • 45% said it affected trust in leadership and team members, and 

  • 42% said it led to increased levels of stress.


If we want to see higher levels of trust and productivity and lower levels of stress in our workspaces, we need to help people learn (or relearn) effective communication skills. To remember that communication isn’t just talking at people. It’s connecting with people. It’s bringing clarity, frequency, curiosity, and authenticity to our communication – across all channels. 


Climate Awareness: In the context of the workplace, climate refers to the overall atmosphere or “feel” of the workspace environment – within and beyond any physical office space. Leaders, especially, and all team members, must pay attention to the emotional and social climate within their teams. And this includes those who are in-person, hybrid, and remote. Because climate is more of a “feeling”, we often notice it more when something is out of sync or when problems such as a decline in productivity, performance, or job satisfaction surface. To help avoid those problems and support mental health at work, we must begin to pay more attention to the emotional and social aspects of the workplace. We must prioritize recognizing and addressing things like workplace stress, inclusion, and psychological safety. We must begin to help leaders at all levels establish systems for regularly checking in on and promptly addressing challenges to team climate. Where you find positive team climate, you find higher levels of productivity, quality, and retention. It’s good for people and for business.


The Practice of Centering: The one thing we consistently hear from most of our clients is that they’re “stressed.”  Sometimes it’s described as feeling incredibly overwhelmed with workload and under-resourced. Other times it’s an expression of how difficult it is to constantly juggle competing priorities amidst an environment of urgency. And yet others are describing the actual and potentially dangerous symptoms of burn out. This culture of stress and urgency that seems to be permeating so many workplaces is exactly why we believe so strongly in the practice of centering. When we hear “stressed out” from our clients, what we know is that they’re likely dysregulated – from a biological perspective. Our nervous systems are wired to protect us and make us aware of danger. Workplace interactions, deadlines, expectations, important meetings, conflicts, etc. may be experienced by the brain as threats. Those threats activate the nervous system and shift us out of balance. When that happens, we’re less able to think critically, make good decisions, stay calm under pressure, and more. Learning to understand and take care of our nervous system is at the core of being able to connect meaningfully, communicate effectively, and contribute positively to workplace climate. 


Healing the disrupted workplace means “going back to the basics” and investing in the right kind of people (not “soft”!) skill development. Authentic leaders, engaged teams, and inspired employees will help to create positive and productive work environments that benefit everyone involved. Our landscapes of work are ever-changing, but what will always matter are the abilities to connect, communicate, address climate, and center.



 

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