The new normal: two simple ways to foster existing relationships

Recently, we’ve explored the new normal of working from home (WFH) in a special blog series, especially as it relates to improving WFH productivity, finding your focus, and building team relationships remotely. However, for this final blog of the series, let’s tackle something we tend to overlook or take for granted: nurturing existing relationships.

We get so caught up in the daily routines that we tend to forget to nourish the working relationships we so carefully built. Like a flourishing garden, healthy work relationships grow when they are tended with care – watered, weeded, and nurtured. Job satisfaction and long-term career success are built on this foundation and we would be doing ourselves (and each other) a disservice by neglecting them.

So, as you move about your new normal, be sure you focus on fostering those existing relationships. It’s really quite simple, and here are two simple suggestions to help you succeed.

Show your appreciation

Just yesterday, my colleague requested I remain on Zoom following a meeting we were wrapping up. After everyone else had dropped, he expressed his appreciation regarding a conversation we had last week. I do not recall his exact words, and honestly, it wasn’t the words that mattered. Because I can recount how I felt: understood, worthy, appreciated.

His facial expressions, tone of voice, and eye contact conveyed thoughtful sincerity. I truly felt his words and his appreciation. All of this contributed to a welcomed side benefit – I experienced a closer connection to him. Close connections lead to greater trust. And greater trust leads to robust communication channels that lead to more meaningful outcomes. Good stuff, right?

This Harvard study revealed that “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

In addition, expressing gratitude or appreciation instills loyalty, which helps develop a creative and positive working environment. This could be a simple “thank you” for putting in a little extra effort, for exhibiting vulnerability, or for speaking up when no one else was.

With us all working from the comfort of our homes, it’s challenging to express our gratitude since we can’t buy one another a cup of coffee or a sandwich. So beyond verbal acknowledgements, what are other ways to express your appreciations?

Try creating virtual kudos at KudoBox. This free website allows you to select a card from nine different styles, type your complimentary message, and send via email. It takes literally seconds and the receiver will be pleasantly surprised by your thoughtfulness.

Let’s take this a step further. What about a handmade note of gratitude or recognition? To this day, my 82-year-old mother sends thank-you notes for literally everything. I often giggle at the formality of her letters, but I must admit – receiving her notes give me the warm fuzzies (this is especially true when she adorns the envelopes with kitten stickers). She often tells me that writing the letters makes her feel good, and yes, I feel good receiving them as well. Are we unique in our love of appreciation?

Apparently not. A study in Psychological Science confirms that people expressing gratitude underestimated how pleasantly surprised recipients would be to receive a handwritten thank-you note and how positive the expression of gratitude made recipients feel. On the flip side, people who wrote thank-you letters overestimated the potential awkwardness that someone receiving a heartfelt note would experience. This is proof that you can (and should) grab paper, a pen and a stamp – and let the receiver know how much they are valued.

For a slightly more expensive option, you can always send small gifts of appreciation. For example, an Amazon gift card, a plant (you can’t go wrong with succulents), or a 1000-piece puzzle.

Even better – how about sending something more heartfelt, maybe something you created. This could be the results of your favorite macadamia nut cookie recipe, a string of origami paper cranes, or simply a homemade hand sanitizer or cloth mask. A handmade gift lets someone feel extra special because rather than giving a store-bought present, you chose to put your time creating something. Without a doubt, the person receiving it will feel nothing but good vibes.

Connect with one another

To keep your connections strong, how about simply picking up the phone to say hello? This means dialing a telephone number and using your voice. What? No texting?

Nope, speaking directly with another human cultivates unity and connection. Isn’t it nice to hear your colleague’s response in real time, rather than watching a those tiny typing bubbles while you sit on the edge of your seat, waiting for the response? Don’t you want to rekindle the energy of live conversation? Do your thumbs need a break? I know mine do.  So, pick up the phone, hop on FaceTime and have a real conversation with real people.

In previous posts, we discussed scheduling a virtual coffee/lunch/happy hour with one another. This idea applies here as well. To further our relationships with one another, consciously schedule an hour or longer with a colleague or client. Grab your beverage or food of choice, turn on your cameras, and catch up. Tell them you appreciate them; tell them you are grateful that you are both connected. This is the perfect opportunity to connect with one another.

Welcome to the new normal

We may not now how long stay-at-home orders will remain in effect, but one thing is for sure – we are not returning to the past. Even when the economy opens back up, the new normal will be here to stay.

Thankfully, that means everything we’ve experienced for the last several weeks has not been for nothing. Take what has worked in this time and apply it to the office. Bring calming tools from your home setup and limit multi-tasking. Incorporate time outside by scheduling moments for yourself or walking dates with your co-workers. Save your team from endless meetings that could have been emails, or better yet, online visual project management tools such as Miro or Mural.

Even beyond quarantine, connect with your team off the clock. At Vaco, we’ve arguably gotten closer during COVID-19 with consistent happy hours, moments of Zen, and trivia games (in addition to work, of course!). Virtual team building should remain – colleagues who otherwise would’ve needed to find a babysitter or couldn’t be bothered to drive are able to participate in virtual events, even if only to say hello. This series (and overall quarantine) serves as a reminder in the importance of finding creative ways to take care of yourself and each other. Without knowing it, we’ve embarked on a new – perhaps better – way of doing business.

Learn more about Kimberly here.