How to Cultivate Connection and Belonging: The Future of Work

The COVID-19 pandemic required organizations to reimagine and reconstruct working environments to serve employees away from the office. Organizations and individuals have had the opportunity to reflect on both in-person and remote meeting settings and have identified advantages and disadvantages of each. With the ability to work from the office or from the kitchen, organizations are now determining what the future working experience looks like as pandemic restrictions are lifted. While breaking out of the traditional models of work/care/interacting, we need to think about what we are moving towards and who helps to define that new model. Is it customers, exec teams, or staff? Nearly 18 months into the pandemic, we now know that we can innovate at scale to react to our changing world. Going one step further, how can we ask the right questions and listen to their answers to collaboratively construct a recovery roadmap that meets all stakeholders’ physical and psychosocial needs?

Rather than asking employees if they want to return to the office, New York Times writer Priya Parker suggests we ask employees how they want to continue working through a more intuitive and instructive set of questions, asking: “What do you miss about in person meetings? What did you not miss and are ready to leave behind? What innovations were born from the pandemic that you’d like to incorporate into new ways of working?” and, of course, questions such as “What matters to you most right now?” “What makes a good day?”, “What are your greatest barriers to delivering/having a more ideal experience?”. 



This dialogue between executive teams, managers, and employees aims to promote belonging, agency, efficiency, and productivity, but must begin with reflecting and communicating themes and responses of individuals. Compassionate consensus building between various roles (executive team, mid-managers, point of action staff) and demographics (parents or caregivers, single or solo people, multi-generation households, etc) of people will shape new ways of working and interacting. In this way, leaders can support the overall health and recovery of their team by listening to what matters most to them as groups and as individuals and acting upon discovered themes. In a post-Covid world, successful leadership models will create structures and outlets for all individuals and teams to voice their needs and to make requests. How/if that information is acted upon will shape corporate culture, overall wellbeing of its people, and, ultimately, customer experience. 




Reflecting on past in-person meetings and gatherings, which require travel, additional time, and expenses, begs the conversation about what needs to be done in person versus remotely given a desired outcome (team connection, client project, quick debrief). Defining the roadmap to achieve the desired outcome team begins with knowing what works (or doesn’t) by those who are responsible for the work. According to goShadow data, what has mattered the most to people during Covid are their teams, their families, and knowing their purpose at work. What they have missed most during Covid are the human connections and interactions that afford psychosocial wellbeing and naturally occur during shared office meals, coffee, end-of-meeting small talk. Even in the absence of being in-person, meaningful connection is not exclusive to organizations that are only in-person. For others, it may be realized through virtual social events that bring individuals together and create shared experiences in a new way.


Iteratively asking “What Matters Most”, intentionally listening, and collaboratively acting to support employees are the keys for corporations, teams, and individuals to survive now and thrive later. 


Parker, Priya. “How Should We Meet? and Who Decides?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Aug. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/08/20/opinion/meetings-remote-work-covid.html.

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September 17, 2021

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