From ‘me’ to ‘we’: How to boost emotional presence at work

From ‘me’ to ‘we’: How to boost emotional presence at work

Let’s make the time spent at work more purposeful, starting from reducing the number of comms channels we use and embracing different behavioural styles.

We’re a mere number of weeks into 2024 and we’re still having the same conversation around the perfect formula for hybrid working — the number of days, the frequency and the formation.

It’s the new small talk that we turn to when we meet other business leaders, even before our beloved British conversation about the weather. Over four years since the first Covid-19 case was confirmed, office policies are still in flux. No-one knows what “right” looks like.

I truly believe there’s so much power in physically coming together. Collaboration, creativity, serendipity and the propensity to learn are all boosted by being in the office.

But I also know that flexibility remains key — to maintain a good work-life balance, to make space for deep work and, let’s be honest, to help with our finances.

Making time purposeful

What’s struck me as we’ve come into this year is that being physically present in the office is only half the answer and it doesn’t go hand in hand with being emotionally present.

Instead of dragging everyone into the office purely to fulfil a mandate, let’s make the time spent at work more purposeful.

At Wavemaker UK, we’re doubling down on helping our people feel more emotionally present at work.

First, we’re trying to reduce the multiple comms channels we’re experiencing due to hybrid working. That means putting a stop to the disconnected conversations that are starting in Teams or in a meeting (or a mix of both), then continuing on WhatsApp and being completed in an email.

Instead of harnessing the flexibility that hybrid working has offered, we’ve entered peak cognitive overload and our emotional presence at work has diminished as a result.

Concentrating on ‘we’

Secondly, we’re thinking carefully about what it means to put “we” over “me” when it comes to how we work and getting to the best possible output. To thrive at work, and empower others to do the same, it’s crucial to concentrate on the “we”.

Being part of a team requires a level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence, knowing what you bring to the table and the dynamic that adds to others’ strengths and weaknesses.

If agency leaders have one pressing need today, it’s to find ways to create high-performing teams that work more effectively. An important part of this is to ensure everyone understands their own behavioural preferences and communication styles.

So we’re also rolling out workshops using Insights Discovery. The Insights Discovery model is based on four colours: fiery red, sunshine yellow, earth green and cool blue. Put simply, sunshine yellow characteristics are bubbly and sociable, while cool blues like to think before they speak, prepare and be organised in their thoughts.

The workshops include activities and discussions aimed at helping people identify their dominant colour and understand the characteristics associated with each colour. We then work to recognise different behavioural styles, ultimately leading to improved communication, collaboration and overall team effectiveness.

Inclusive culture

Importantly, this isn’t about favouring a certain “type” or excluding anyone. It is about recognising how different people work and react in particular situations, because we can then create environments that allow everyone to be emotionally present.

At its core, it’s about driving forward an inclusive culture that celebrates behavioural diversity. And that can only have a positive impact on our collective emotional presence at work.

High-performing teams don’t just happen. Especially not just by being in the office. We must accept that agency teams will — and should — be forged differently now and we need to be much more conscious about how we do this.

For agencies, this will no doubt be a key definer of success moving forward.

Katie Lee is UK chief operating officer at Wavemaker

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