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  • Natalie Hall

Missing The Little Smiles?

Updated: Jul 6

Many of us (particularly for those with offices in larger cities) are looking at a continued work from home situation for the foreseeable. This enforced work-life isolation is causing heightened emotions both positivity and negatively, together with a lack of face to face interaction can mean that the small encouragements and positive recognition are lost.

How have you been feeling over the past few months working at home? Have you felt disconnected or thrived being on your own to get on with stuff? People wildly differ – and this isn’t binary but for many introverts, this has been an opportunity to really embrace working on their own and have welcomed not having to interact, perform and be out of their comfort zone – they can just get on with their work at their own pace. Whereas, the extroverts among us are missing the interaction, the buzz of work and being with people, which can lead to dips in confidence and sees self-doubt creep in. If I’m honest, I oscillate between the two depending on the task at hand.

As leaders, it is tough as not physically being able to be with your team can mean that signs of somebody struggling and non-verbal cues are missed – there is only so much you can get from a Zoom call. This is where you have to be extra vigilant and really check in with your team as much as you can and try and open an honest pathway of conversation with them, asking questions to see how they are really. There’s no right question here – it’s a case of being open, demonstrating true empathy and giving people the space and time to talk. 




Many of the organisations I have been working with have had feedback that ranges from managers checking in too much versus not demonstrating enough “true” interest in their teams' personal lives. I think that ultimately, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to supporting your team. Everyone right now is facing such a different set of challenges at home and has a different support structure that daily check-ins may be appropriate whereas for others once a month is just fine. What has to be the minimum is that every manager and leader, understands how to have a conversation – with genuine interest and empathy at its heart and that employees can openly state their preference for interactions.  What constitutes a good check-in conversation?

  • Giving people time – don’t ask at the start of a busy session with lots to cover how they are, they will feel the need to move on quickly. Equally don’t shoehorn it onto the end of a meeting – the “I forgot to ask, how are you?” at 11.58am feels me with dread. You’ll never get anything other than “Yeah fine”.

  • It deserves its own session – even just 15 minutes, but the agenda is how they are and what they need.

  • You’re not in “fix it” mode (unless they ask for your help) – try and actively listen, don’t offer up solutions or compare to your situation. This conversation is about them and should be a space to share and talk through challenges.

  • Ask lots of open questions (I know, I know) – but it’s important to give them the opportunity to explain and share.

  • Close by asking them what they would like you to do – they might say nothing and the act of having this conversation helped them feel heard, there might be an action for you to follow-up or they may ask for a regular session. Again, this is about finding what works for them. If you’d like a conversation about the work we do with organisations to support team wellbeing and leaders through this time, do get in touch.

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