Fostering Human Connections Shapes a Healthy Workplace Environment

LĪGA PAULIŅA, Dynatech Administrative Director, Lawyer

Uncertainty about the future is something we all experience and can relate to these days. The pandemic, disrupted supply chains, and an unclear geopolitical situation have all played a role in making us question how stable our lives really are. But, at the end of the day, thoughts about the future, as well as short-term and long-term planning, are at the core of human nature. And, even in the face of uncertainty, having a clear vision of what's to come is critical for us as individuals and organizations to thrive.

Studies show that stress caused by uncertainty and worry can limit our ability to be creative, collaborative, and focused. That's why communication and teamwork are so crucial for any successful organization. By working together and exchanging ideas, we can create healthy work relationships that promote self-esteem, foster empathy, and reduce stress levels. This is something that leaders should keep in mind every single day.

The Irreplaceable Value of In-Person Interaction

Planning activities in organizations can be quite challenging these days - uncertainty has become the new norm. The pandemic and restrictions on face-to-face communication have significantly impacted people's ability to collaborate and solve work-related issues. Working remotely for two years has also changed employees' communication habits, which sometimes leads to misunderstandings.

For companies with a long history and established relationships between employees and management, working remotely may seem easier. In such companies, communication is based on shared values, a common understanding of the company's mission, position in the market, and history. This provides a solid foundation for collaboration. However, for relatively new companies or those with frequent employee turnover, remote work can significantly hinder daily processes. It's possible, but it certainly poses many more challenges. I would compare it to a long-distance relationship. When we're in love and share common dreams, goals, and a clear understanding of why we're together, distance doesn't scare us. But when something is left unspoken or partners are not quite suitable for each other, distance in a relationship creates a crisis that can end in separation.

The lack of in-person communication also devalues so-called soft skills. There are cases where an employee's excellence in communication, team building, and organizing is revealed only through in-person interactions.

Remote work is well suited for freelancers or independent artists. The most significant difference is the attachment, loyalty, and integration with the company's goals, values, and culture. Service work is ad hoc in nature. A specialist is hired for a specific project for a set period of time or for a specific task but is not integrated into the company. Essentially, they are only responsible for their part of the service, not the common goal.

Investments in the Workplace Environment

Many companies, including Dynatech, are encouraging people to return to the office and work on-site. From my observations, not everyone is able to work remotely and be productive, nor do they possess the necessary remote communication skills to ensure successful teamwork. And often, physical presence in the office is necessary not just for the specific employee who works successfully and efficiently remotely, but for others with whom this employee closely collaborates. Therefore, we are investing in improving and developing the office environment, thinking about ergonomic and creative spaces where it is comfortable and enjoyable to work.

Daily communication is extremely important - both among colleagues and between leaders and the team as a whole. Firstly, it helps employees fit in and feel like part of the team, and secondly, quickly and effectively solve various work-related issues.

Speaking of the first point, if an employee feels a sense of belonging to the company, wants to communicate with colleagues, and returns to the office to socialize, it increases the likelihood that this person will work for the company in the long term. Personal connections and relationships are significant, so it is worth investing in various team-building activities where people can bond and form friendly relationships. In addition, these events allow colleagues to get to know each other better and learn something new about them. This knowledge often comes in handy at work as well.

Talking to Employees Is Key

To truly understand what's happening in a company, leaders at all levels need to be involved and interested. You need to observe and sometimes even sense how teams interact, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how employees feel. This doesn't mean that every employee needs an individual approach every day. Much can be achieved through regular and open communication. Being informed builds trust and understanding, and it's important not to overestimate or underestimate the significance of information. You need to talk about important strategic decisions made within the company and answer simple employee questions. Listening is actually a more important skill for a leader than speaking. Often, seemingly complex situations can resolve themselves if the involved parties are given the opportunity to express themselves.

Transparency is particularly important in crisis situations, when fast and clear answers are often not available, or it seems that you may be able to solve the situation before anyone finds out about it. I'll give you an example - one day we faced a technical problem with salary payments, and employees did not receive their pay in the first half of the day, as usual. This was during the post-pandemic period, where we experienced a significant drop in turnover. And while the main problem was being solved, rumors began to spread that the company was in financial trouble. It was easy to put out this fire, but it gave us an insight into how a seemingly safe situation can drastically change in just a few minutes.

Even if no specific decisions have been made, it is important to inform employees as quickly and accurately as possible about what has happened (if known) and what issues are being addressed at that particular moment, as well as the expected time for the next update. Silence is the worst thing that can be done. It increases tension, suspicion, and rumors that can spread beyond the organization and create reputational risks. An effective internal communication strategy helps to reduce these risks.

In the age of technology, face-to-face communication, the ability to express one's needs and to listen to each other are the basis for successful interaction. By talking, we maintain a connection. Striving to create a cohesive, safe, and inclusive environment for employees may seem like a daunting task, but the investment you make in this mission is worth every minute and every cent.




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