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How Better Connection Can Make the Workplace Whole

BY: Sara Martin, MS // Chief Executive Officer • WELCOA

CONNECTION: Experiencing positive, trusting relationships with others. Feeling a sense of belonging, acceptance, and support.

Why is CONNECTION critical to making the workplace whole again?

This is not the first time in our history that we have had to help workers be effective and maintain their well-being through periods of volatility, uncertainty and complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). The concept of peer coaching—which is now an emerging resource for improving employee engagement, motivation and supporting behaviors for well-being—was actually pioneered by the U.S. Army to help soldiers continue to perform effectively even in a VUCA landscape. When we think about bringing humans back to work in a way that makes them feel more whole, we have to start with making them feel safe and connected at the most basic level. Implementing strategies that help employees connect with each other and maintain trust for the organization is paramount. Below are some good ideas for adding things into your organization to improve connection, but at WELCOA we encourage you to first start by removing anything that erodes connection and belonging. This could include unclear communication from leaders that undermine trust. It could include safety protocols that protect some employee types while putting others at increased risk. It could also include addressing the feelings of physical isolation from working from home or the mental isolation of struggling with fear or grief in a climate that does not support employees talking about their emotions. Take a moment and think about what barriers to connection and trust may be in your organization before you begin standing up new resources.

How does fostering CONNECTION affect the working human?

When WELCOA deemed this year our year of social connection, it was because we were blown away by the evidence showing that social isolation has measurable physical and health consequences for humans. We built our evolved 7 Benchmarks on top of self-determination theory, which states that one of the three basic needs that has to be met for psychological well-being is connection or relatedness. Feeling like we belong to each other and to our communities fosters better motivation to achieve our goals for wellness. It is fuel. WELCOA Connect speaker Leigh McCormack of Base Camp Health has been curating actionable social determinants of health insights that accurately identify and prioritize the risk of patients and communities. She will be presenting the Idea Collective on The Future of Work & Social Connection providing some compelling data on the impact that social support has on a variety of health outcomes—not just in theory, but in practice.

What are the first steps to improving CONNECTION in the workplace?

Consider creating your own channels for peer coaching and connection. You can set up weekly conversation themes, assign partners, and create something organic in your organization if you have strong technologies or traditions that allow for connection between employees. There are also vendors that can support you. WELCOA interviewed Aaron Hurst from Imperative on a WELCOA Pulse call, who talked more about peer coaching strategies and what vendors are doing to help. Here are a few more quick ideas:
  • Daily team video calls with head/heart check-ins
  • Peer coaching and peer-to-peer buddy systems
  • Create group-based resources like speaker series on a variety of topics (mindfulness, nutrition, grief, resiliency, ergonomics, etc.) that encourage group sharing among participants

How is WELCOA implementing strategies for CONNECTION in our organization?

When WELCOA employees went remote this March, isolation was a big concern. We began hosting two team meetings “check-in’s” per day for all employees to join. We discussed project statuses and needs from each other, but we also created intentional platforms for vulnerability as well. A tradition at WELCOA is to begin meetings with two questions, “How is your head?” and “How is your heart?” This helped employees feel like vulnerability was not just allowed, but encouraged because it presents specific questions that get at how someone is feeling; no one responded, “I’m fine.” This was the baseline for the connection that we foster among the team, and you can find many other ideas that we implemented in the resources below.

What are WELCOA resources that support CONNECTION:

Sara Martin
Sara Martin, MS // Interim Chief Executive Officer • WELCOA

Sara has launched award-winning wellness programs and engineered work environments to create cultures of health across multiple industries. At WELCOA, her role is to ensure you continue to have access to the best products and information so you can achieve your professional and personal wellness goals.