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Creating an environment of connection in a post-pandemic world

Connection. Perhaps a year and a half ago it wasn’t something that you were thinking about on a regular basis. Fast forward to the present time and it’s something we’re all looking to do more of and learn how to do better in order to connect with our fellow humans, both in and out of the working environment.
Lauren Waldman - Guest Contributor
2021-12-03

Connection. Perhaps a year and a half ago it wasn’t something that you were thinking about on a regular basis. Fast forward to the present time and it’s something we’re all looking to do more of and learn how to do better in order to connect with our fellow humans, both in and out of the working environment.

In a session hosted by the LPI, Edmunk Monk, David Hastings and I had, what I think is safe to say a beautiful exchange of trust, vulnerability and empathy with all the attendees as we shared and learned from one another over the course of the hour. We went in with questions of curiosity and came out with valuable suggestions, practices and insights to move forward with, some of which I’m happy to share with you all reading.

So what sparked all this great conversation? Well learning of course! And the first part of our time together had us talking about our environments. So let’s explore that a little.

One of the primary jobs of our brains is to keep us alive and it does so by constantly scanning our environments (both external and internal) but a lot of our working environments changed when we had to work from home.

Some of these new working environments came with co-workers who needed snacks, diaper changes, help with school, others were pets who needed to be taken out for walks and sometimes insisted on being part of your meetings. 

“The cat made sure to let me know when it was time to stop working and worship him.”

For others, it was quiet, too quiet actually, which came with its own set of new challenges as reintegration back into the workplace began.  

“I've been reluctant to return to busy overcrowded places even though we can”

This is something that is important to stop and acknowledge especially when it comes to how the brain is processing and expending energy. 

While some of the brains above were putting their attentional networks to the test in order to focus and get work done amongst a more chaotic home working environment, other brains had these networks dimmed down.

Think about that in the contrast of one’s experience. The person with the chaotic environment might be craving the office with different people to engage and socialize with, welcoming that back into their worlds.

On the other side though are people who went from a less distracted, quieter environment back to a seemingly normal office, only to discover that the brain was going to be processing much more sensory data again. People walking around, having social chats, meetings going on, the sounds of copiers, music, other people working etc. After little to no time amongst people, socializing has become exhausting and, in many cases, overwhelming. 

A hug or a handshake that hadn’t been felt after a year of no physical contact, can flood the system with the neurotransmitter oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” but also is released during social functions as it impacts our bonding behaviour.

An experience like that, as lovely and welcoming as it is, can also leave one feeling quite tired, as you now understand how much more the brain and body is processing. 

With all this in mind, and knowing that work still needed to get done, I asked the question to our participants, which I’ll encourage you to now take a moment to ask yourself before you continue reading... 

What were some of the biggest adjustments (if any) that you had to make in the environments that you’re working from to maintain productivity? 

When you stop to really think about it, unless this was your normal before, you probably made more accommodations than you realise.  Here are some of the ones which were shared in the session, perhaps you did some of the same:

  • Created specific spaces which were meant solely for work
  • Prioritised time to catch up with colleagues, to say hi and talk about things other than work
  • Taking intentional breaks to get outside for fresh air
  • Making more time to exercise, eat, and nourish the mind and body
  • Connecting more with friends and family

It seems like we all did a pretty good job, and some great learning, so what can we learn more of?

“I have more patience than I could ever imagined!”

It’s amazing but it’s within the simplicity of our human skills that great value is found, but we can’t make the assumption that we all have those skills yet, hence we learn.

As we move forward to humanising the workplace, it’s the skills of empathy, meaningful listening/conscious communication, self-monitoring and regulation both on the emotional and cognitive fronts, which will help us move forward in our work and our relationships. And that’s only a drip in the pond of what we can learn, which I will take the time right now to emphasize TAKES TIME. 

Recognising that we need to give space and time for people to develop on their own as well as time to learn to bring the skills to our interactions with one another, will be a key in learning how to co-regulate. But remember change/learning means that the brain needs to make literal physical adjustments to accommodate for that and we do that with replication and practice. 

Now, just before we ended the online session I did ask one thing of everyone which I will ask of all of you reading this now, and that’s to come back.

Often people look at learning as a one and done. You attend a webinar for an hour, a workshop for half a day, watch a couple of hours of e-learning and never return to it. 

It was a delight to see people in the audience who have joined us before and wanted to continue sharing and learning with one another.  So I invite you as well to come back, join in our next live sessions, come say hi at a conference, anything to keep the learning going!

I'll leave you with a message that came from a participant in the chatbox as we wrapped up our time together

“Thank you everyone, keep enjoying everything that challenges you :)”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

YARR for now, (You Are Really Ready),

Lauren.

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