Last week we had a fascinating conversation with Erica Keswin, best-selling author, celebrated workplace strategist, and expert on the topic of working human.
People of all ages and across industries are looking to their workplaces to satisfy something big and something deep. Something human. In her book, Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Sure-Fire Ways to Design a Workplace That’s Good for People, Great for Business and Just Might Change the World, Erica distills the key practices of the most human companies into practical advice that leaders can use to build a more “human workplace.”
Given the disruption and dramatic changes to the workplace since COVID19, we were curious about how we can bring our human to work when we can’t go to work. Here are six key leadership practices that emerged during our online interview with Erica.
1. Be real. Be vulnerable.
When we asked her why bringing your human to work is important right now, Erica reminded us that it’s always been important. Our experience with COVID emphasizes why.
“With video conferencing, we are also in each other’s homes. It can’t get more personal than that. Every day is different for people. Many are scared and nervous about their jobs, the economy, and layoffs. The good news is that she sees companies and leaders rising to the occasion and approaching this situation from a human perspective.
“Leaders are being real with people. They are speaking in a human voice and are willing to be vulnerable, and in this moment, if you as a leader can give people a realistic idea of what you are going through, it can go a long way.”
- How are you allowing space for your team’s ‘human’ in the workplace?
- How can you be real with your team? How might that help your team grow?
2. Check in Often
The daily check in has become the norm for most organizations and from Erica’s perspective, it’s the right move.
“Checking in and simply asking people how they are doing is important as their response is going to change day to day and week to week. It’s one way to honour relationships.”
But Zoom fatigue is real. It can lead to stress and burnout. Erica reminds us that part of being human in this moment is to dialogue with our teams. We need to ask how often they want to connect, and we need to explore a variety of communications methods.
“Not every Zoom meeting is created equal. Talk with your team and define what meetings are optional and what are the important ones. Happy hour versus a daily meeting, for example. Think about what can be done through email, Slack, or over the phone. You need to match the medium to the message,” Erica advises.
- What communication options can you offer your team?
- How could providing options mitigate fatigue, stress, and burnout?
3. Maintain Rituals
According to Erica, rituals give us a sense of psychological safety, belonging, and a connection to purpose. If rituals are part of your culture, Erica suggests finding ways to keep them alive.
She points to Knotch, a digital media company, who’s done just that. Every Friday, Knotch does a show and tell which can be anything from introducing a new employee, highlighting a new strategy, or having a team member recap a recent trip (when you could travel). The minute they went remote, they decided to keep that ritual.
“This ritual conveyed a sense that things are going to be okay and that they are still a company, and even though it’s a different medium, they can still connect with each other. The essence was the same.”
Knotch added an “ask anything” segment where people could ask the CEO any question that was on their mind. This shows transparency and gives people a sense of connection with their leader and company.
If you want to learn more about the power of workplace rituals, stay tuned for Erica’s next book: Rituals Roadmap: The Human Way to Transform Everyday Routines into Workplace Magic which will be available early 2021.
- What rituals already exist within your culture?
- What rituals can you tweak, re-invent or create to help your team stay connected?
4. Balance technology with personal values
When it comes to balancing technology and personal values, Erica says we need to ask if our calendar is reflecting our values. How are we spending our time and who are we spending it with?
“The first task is to understand what we need. Only then can we analyze how to leverage technology or turn it off. And it’s different for every person.”
For some, the morning rituals might mean disconnecting from tech altogether, or it might mean skipping the 1 pm optional Zoom meeting. For others, it’s letting the team know that you’ll be on the phone instead of a video conference so you can walk and get some exercise at the same time.
Erica explains, “These days, people are being kinder to each other and themselves. We need to let our managers know what we need, and when and where we need to disconnect from technology. If we can’t find time to get off technology, we won’t be serving our companies well.”
- How are you ruling technology rather than letting it rule you?
- How can you create opportunities for your team to express what they need when it comes to technology?
5. Bring your company values to life
“Right now is the perfect time to test your values,” says Erica.
Are they articulated? Are they evident? How are they manifesting during this time?
She points to the clients she sees living their values. KIND, a nutritional snack company, offers online morning meditations for their teams to help them stay healthy and connected. They also have a Lunch Roulette program that matches people for remote online lunches. Udemy, an online learning company, also hosts a Lunch Roulette and offers lunch gift cards from local restaurants to their employees.
- What’s one of your values that you can bring to life in this moment?
- How will you do that? What company values are naturally elevated during this season? What values could you lean into?
6. Show up and give back
Erica says that Millennials and GenZ’s (who will dominate the work world by 2025) want to work for companies that have a purpose and care about something bigger. And customers want that too.
“This has taken on a new level of meaning during COVID. How companies are showing up in this moment is critical. When we look back, companies will be judged by what they did for their employees, their clients, their communities, small businesses, and the world.”
She says giving back is not only the right thing to do, but it impacts how companies attract and retain talent, and it influences where consumers will go to buy products.
Plus, data shows that the more we give back, the less lonely and the more connected we feel. Erica urges people to give back whether that’s checking in on an elderly person, offering to pick up groceries, helping with homeschooling, or donating to a cause.
As part of signing up for the webinar, Smart Savvy encouraged participants to donate to an organization that empowers women in the workforce — Dress for Success Vancouver. Want to feel less lonely and more connected? Check out DFS Vancouver and donate today.
- How can you help your team and your organization experience the benefits of giving back?
- How will your company be remembered from this time?
No matter which strategies you choose to focus on, whether it's adapting/creating rituals, demonstrating your values, or giving back, Erica’s final challenge to us is to have some fun. Laughter is human. It helps us feel connected, and it bolsters our sense of creativity and innovation.
- How can you add a little levity to your life and team culture?
If you missed the webinar, don’t worry. We have a full replay for you. Just click below to watch. If you’re ready to dive a little deeper, email Erica for her free e-workbook at email@example.com
Director, Smart Savvy Academy
Catherine delivers workshops and programs to strengthen leaders, teams, cultures, employer brands and engagement. Her raison d’être is to make work more meaningful, leaders more potent and teams more productive and engaged.
Smart, Savvy + Associates are experts in helping marketing and communications leaders find people and develop teams that thrive and deliver inspiring results. As a people performance company, we specialize in finding marketing and communications talent in the Pacific North West. We also offer training programs for leaders and teams as well as options to become a certified coach or get coached.