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Commentary: The importance of fostering community in hybrid work environments

  • Published
  • By SMSgt Elise Redziniak, First Sergeant, AF Life Cycle Management Center

A sense of community in the workplace is developed over time after being intentional with fostering relationships. It’s easy to internalize a task-oriented leadership style and driving mission completion, which is important but there is an opportunity to build a "people-first" culture by placing priority on getting to know the team and fostering opportunities for them to get to know one another. As we continue to emerge out of COVID-19 and teams start return to the office, it is even more important to focus on an inclusive environment.

Leaders can establish a positive workplace in these ways:

Offer opportunities for team building. It is important for leaders to communicate the expectation of working together and rewarding this behavior when it occurs. We have experienced and been on teams that were successful as they did not focus on advancing themselves as individuals but focused on reaching goals as a team.  A leader can better create the framework of a team by identifying each person’s role and what they contribute to the big picture so it better streamlines communication and clarity during projects. Look for ways to connect at work with team building activities and outside of work (perhaps bring families too). Also, the Force Support Squadron has the UNITE program for our work centers to use for team building activities. 

Invest in multiple forms of communication.  In a poll, 86% of employees and executives cite a lack of collaboration due to ineffective communication as the main reason for project failures within the work place. Often, communication is the hardest thing we do to ensure all individuals are on the same page. Think of ways of communicating with your team online through various platforms like Zoom, Teams, Groupme, Slack, email, text, and of course nothing replaces the good old in-person meetings with your teammates. However, teleworking or hybrid is most likely here to stay, so it is even more imperative to develop strong communication platforms to keep the team connected and organized. It can be difficult to be assigned to a new workcenter and immediately jump into telework as this can pose a challenge of not understanding the lines of communication which can lead to confusion, a lack of collaboration, and feelings of isolation.

Make appreciation a standard part of your organization. I recently learned that we lead with three different centers. They are the head, body, and heart which are all needed in various capacities. The head center is focused on intelligence, body with physical actions, and the heart center is focused on emotional intelligence, investing and looking for ways to inspire your team. The heart center allows us as leaders to better connect with our people but more importantly gives us the opportunity to have gratitude. Giving kudos and thank you’s to your team will help make them feel valued while inspiring them to continue with that standard of quality work. Leading with the heart and showing appreciation to your team can cause a ripple effect to other employees which helps create connections and increased morale of the team. 
Building a sense of community in the work place can pose a challenge with blended work environments but it is much needed to ensure people feel connected while building trust and giving the opportunity for people to feel a sense of purpose while finding their place in the work center.