Erica Keswin, a workplace strategist who recently published a fascinating new book, “Bring Your Human to Work,” recalls a chat with a CEO who shared how nine people in his company had a seemingly normal conference call.
“After the call they realized that all nine people had called in to the conference call from the same building,” Keswin says on the latest episode of the #WorkTrends podcast. “In other words, they were a couple of steps, an elevator bank, a cubicle, away from each other. It was so foreign from my own work experience, but I began to wonder what would make someone forgo the opportunity to connect with their colleagues face-to-face.”
The anecdote helped move her to explore more deeply why people aren’t connecting in the workplace, eventually leading her to collect her findings in the book, which offers offers 10 ways to transform your workplace by honoring human relationships. It’s an important discussion that encourages us to look beyond the HR technology we so often focus on and give the human aspect of HR its due.
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Find the Technology Sweet Spot
Keswin says that while she’s far from anti-technology, she believes it’s important for organizations to find the “sweet spot” between leveraging everything that’s amazing about tech and knowing when to put technology in its place and connect in a more human way. She’s also adamant that technology, when used, should align with our culture and values.
“Unless we are very disciplined and intentional about how we connect with our clients, with our colleagues and even with ourselves, it often doesn’t happen,” she says. “It does impact us as people and the bottom line of our businesses. This is not a touchy-feely, feel-good thing. This has true bottom-line implications.”
Mind Your Meetings
Keswin notes that a chapter in her book called “Mind Your Meetings” details how many workers sit in meetings for hours upon hours, often multitasking. “People don’t even start to do their real work until everybody goes home,” she says. “For me, these meetings are an opportunity to go into a much deeper form of connection with the people in the meeting. However, it’s often the opposite that’s happening — that people come in, they sit around the table and everybody’s multitasking, texting, under the table.
She suggests organizations consider limiting technology in some meetings, a shift she says will have three positive effects. First, meetings are shorter because people are less distracted. People are also generally less likely to be offended because they get sufficient attention from their less-distracted colleagues, which can help improve relationships within the office. And the third benefit to low-tech meetings, she says, is that they generally increase the substance of the conversation.
Be Intentional About Being Real
Keswin says the key to making sure we’re showing up to work and being real-life people every day comes down to being intentional. “We’re not bad people, but many of us really want to get to inbox zero, and we’re prioritizing that over some of these human connections,” she says. “The technology is built to give us this hit of dopamine every time we send an email. I think about being intentional, and in the book I divide it up into these three P’s: prioritize, positioning and protocol.”
She says everyone, but particularly leaders, needs to prioritize relationships and create opportunities for real human connections — even if people think they’re too busy.
“I advise you to ask yourself this one very telling question: ‘Does your calendar reflect your values?’ ” she says. “That one question really pushes people to look at how busy they are, but also what they are doing under this umbrella of business. Is it aligned with their values, the values of their company, and pushing themselves to be more intentional, strategic and carve out time to connect with people in other ways?”
Resources Mentioned in This Episode
- Erica Keswin on Twitter, LinkedIn and her website.
- Pravina Rudra on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Olivet study on workplace friendships.
Let’s continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific, or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.