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Since discussing work cultures and remote work environments with the last three guests, Matt Blizek, Raul Cuadrado, and Ute Franzen-Waschke, I’ve been thinking about the connection between relationships at work and work cultures. When we think about a relationship, we can compare it to the growth of a plant.
In order to build any kind of relationship, you need to plant a seed. We can think about willingness and intention as seeds that can be planted to build a relationship. That’s a good start, but then we need to nurture these seeds. This is where action comes in. Some of these actions include virtual watercoolers, ice-breakers, and other opportunities to get to know your colleagues.
If you have a work culture that nurtures relationships, then there are systems in place to support these actions. You are encouraged to participate in social activities and to get to know your colleagues during the workday. Opportunities to meet colleagues face to face are encouraged and supported by the company, with periodic opportunities for team building during meetups.
Personal interest is the seed for relationships at work while the system and structure of the workplace, i.e. the work culture, nurture the seed for the relationship to grow.
Ute, Raul, and Matt each shared some actions that you can take for having satisfying relationships at work.
Ute reminds us. Of the importance of starting with ourselves when we think about our relationships. We can decide who we want to be in relationship with and how we will show For those people and in those relationships,
We have so many relationships in the workplace and we cannot be on good terms with everyone, but being intentional and conscious about which relationships are the good ones and which ones are the challenging ones will be a good starting point. And to start with, with the I. Start how you see it, because if you don’t know how you are standing in that relationship, it’s very difficult to guess maybe what the other person is experiencing.Ute Franzen-Waschen
Raul builds on this, and it’s something that I’ve noticed with people that have great emotional intelligence. It really shows what we mean when we talk about being intentional.
This could seem Machiavellian right, but I, I might maintain a chart of relationships that I want to keep alive at work.Raul Anton Cuadrado
Matt reminds us of the importance of continuing to meet with the people that we value, with the people who I important to us, and of spending time in the physical world and not just in the virtual world.
I think the other thing’s though, like looking for other hobbies or passions. Is there like a local club or something that they can join? If you’re interested in something, going and looking online for other similar people that you can join, even if it’s a virtual community. Being part of community with people is going to help you feel more centered and more fulfilled.
And then, I think a lot of it is, you know, it’s like, hey, who was your good friend eight years ago that you haven’t had a good conversation with the item. It’s rekindling maybe some of those old relationships. I played a lot of Zoom poker was old friends during the pandemic, which was just like a good way for a bunch of us to get together. We would normally get together and have some beers and play a poker game, but that wasn’t possible. So, hey, we’re just going to recreate this space. It’s not the same, but it still gives us a little bit of that connection when we can’t, you know, can’t physically share the same space.Matt Blizek
Raul, in particular, emphasized that just working in an office with someone isn’t enough to create a relationship. Interestingly, the most recent episode of 99% Invisible emphasized this.
Roman Mars talks about how the modern open office started in Silicon Valley in the 2000s and was pitched as a way to facilitate collaboration with people in close proximity to each other. However, studies show that having everyone in a big room actually hindered collaboration. Although there were more people in the space, it was quieter and that made the conversation more awkward.
In the 7 years from 2010 to 2017, the average space per employee decreased by 33% (from 225 to 151 square meters).
If you are interested in the future of work, subscribe to 99% Invisible. This is the first of a 4-part series.
How ironic that adding more people into the space made it even more difficult to be able to chat with and get to know your colleagues. Reducing the space between colleagues actually reduced the opportunities for them to chat and get to know each other personally. Doors got replaced by headphones and other blockers that are even more effective than a physical barrier.
How often do people eat at their desks? I’ve been there, preferring to eat at my desk than in a busy cafeteria. Interestingly, the friends I’ve made at work in the past were people that I spent very little time with at work. We may have met at work but we nurtured our relationship by spending time together and getting to know each other outside of the office. It took being vulnerable and taking the time to really get to know each other. What do you think? Is that possible in virtual space?
Matt talked about the Metaverse. This is emerging technology but how might we build relationships with people that we work with even if we haven’t met them physically? Well first, do you want to build relationships at work, with whom, and what’s your reason for it? Start by answering those questions, and your answers will guide you in what to do next.
For the remote work revolution, we need to rethink work, and in many cases that will require a mindset shift. When we think of work, we need to change the mindset of work from time spent in your chair to outcomes and results. Similarly, if we stay stuck in the mindset that we can’t build strong relationships during remote work, that’s staying stuck in conventional ideas about work. What if, instead, you change the questions?
As I end today’s episode, I leave you with two questions: what kinds of strong relationships can you build at work, and how might you show up to nurture them?
- How to Make Remote Work Relationships More Fun with Raul Anton Cuadrado
- How to Create High Functioning Remote Teams that Work with Ute Franzen-Waschke
- How to Build a Fun, Vibrant Remote Work Culture with Matt Blizek