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Caring In The Workplace: Why Allyship Matters More Than Ever Now

We all do it. Hide behind the truth. Majority of us report regularly faking a good attitude and consciously acting to display appropriate and measured emotions at work.

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 It is not just about being tired or frustrated in a day either, we hide our smiles, preferences, thoughts, likes, dislikes, core and necessary emotions that feed our creative spirits. The unfortunate consequence research validates is that we completely drain ourselves of productive, resource and life giving energies. Yet, we continue do it.

Designated HR professionals argue the need to be not so close to a client as to keep neutrality. People leaders pretend friendships do not exist in the workplace. Colleagues try to keep a distance as to manage politics. Majority of us can recall a time our heart ached when a person we genuinely cared for came into our office for an advice or with some news and we struggled to keep the conversation to the frames we thought were appropriate. Those are the times we know we can do more to elevate the suffering of the individual and yet, somehow, we tend to give into this cognition rationalising we are better off limiting our selves to the conversation while undoubtedly dishonouring our deepest values and true selves.

The truth of the matter is that ally-ship matters significantly in the workplace. According to a meta analysis on the relationship between friendship and group performance, friendship groups perform better than mere acquaintance groups when a high quality output is required. Researchers for Gallup also found that having strong social connections at work makes employees more likely to be engaged with their jobs and produce higher-quality work, and less likely to fall sick or be injured.

Especially now, at times of constant change, volatility and with the ambiguity in the environment (such as COVID-19 pandemic touching all aspects of our societal lives, including how we work), the majority of us have been feeling especially stretched thin. Many industry workers find themselves working longer hours than usual, some working more shifts or even over-night, others in positions such as sales or market access significantly less due to absence of logistics to manage. Those taking care of dependents such as children, parents or sick family members find no quality time to sleep and recharge. In a world, where work and life is being slowly integrated, companies bringing gyms, food, offices home, there is a new unfolding of our most human needs.

It may be time we start treating one another as mature adults and start trusting one’s choices when it comes to life choices. One Pharma company has initiated a program called “choice with responsibility” to offer its people to strengthen this integration journey. Another multinational consumer product company introduced flexible schedules to encourage better life balance. Atlassian, who has been the pioneer of 20% creative time Google often gets credit for introduced a set of free collaboration tools for its employees and for the market to “make human connection easier.”

The human condition is one about belonging. We simply cannot thrive unless we are in relationship. Belonging is a fundamental human need and caring is our default mode. When we feel a sense of belonging, that feeling of being ‘cared for’ not only ignites our reward system, our brains produce oxytocin and we feel lifted up in spirit and useful in relation to others. That’s why our social connections at work have a big impact on our productivity and our ability to display authentic behavior. And we see it in action… In both Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies To Work For‘ and Glassdoor’s top listing companies as ‘2020 Best Places to Work‘ we find caring to be the mutual success sauce in creation of cultures based on trust and reciprocity.

On the other side, loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity. “At work, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making. For our health and our work, it is imperative that we address the loneliness epidemic quickly,” states September 2017 HBR article of ‘Connecting Around the World’.

The investments do not have to be grandiose either; you can start small to make a significant difference:

  1. Time. One way of showing care, for example, is to give people more time to express how they truly feel. Instead of running from one meeting to another, you can build a routine of 45 minute meetings and offer people 15 minutes in between for a quick breather. You can block times on your calendar for virtual open door, allow people a chat opportunity to connect casually once a week.
  2. Value. Another way of showing care is to share the path to value creation. Traditionally, people leaders tend to check in on work completion and closer to completion date. At times like this, where there is a lot of variability, checking in more regularly on the progress and in a way that seeks to listen/understand and/or offer support to remove potential barriers provides better agency.
  3. Routines. The current world of work is very different than what it used to be for many of our global workforce. Yet, as human beings, we continue to thrive best when we can make sense of the environment. Helping create new and predictable patterns and routines like a weekly coffee chat or virtual team meetings, celebrations can truly provide people with a good sense of stability for team members.
  4. Listening. While active listening is always key, finding the necessary feedback channels to keep a pulse on how employees feel about who they are, how they show up in the world and whether they find sufficient support and recognition can be helpful. Remembering what people need to be effective and feel well is going to be different given the climate can drive differentiation at this time.

It is true workplace friendships can be tricky. Yet, whether we recognize it formally or not, the fact is we are in a relationship with other. Being in an allyship and show up for self and the other may be exactly what we need to find belonging now. After all, life is to exist, to flourish, to meld into one another and this may just be the kind of architecture we need in evolving and building our future experiences together.

Source: Forbes

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