The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a plethora of challenges for business in India and across the globe. One such major challenge has been the introduction and sustenance of an unprecedented hybrid work model consisting of a workforce that is geographically dispersed yet endeavouring to accomplish common goals.
Strictly from the perspective of team-bonding in hybrid work culture, enhancing cohesion within a multi-location based staff has become even more imperative for businesses in this era of the new normal. The same holds true in the context of the Indian startup ecosystem and even more so for the simple reason that start-ups, especially in their infancy, are normally in a state of rapid transition.
A start-up with a clear blueprint designed to follow an upward trajectory of growth generally sees its staff strength growing simultaneously in quick time. The number can rise from single digits to double to three figures in a matter of weeks or a few months. Therefore, setting a culture from the get-go which creates a healthy office atmosphere by promoting camaraderie among employees becomes paramount.
However, ensuring optimum levels of team-bonding in a hybrid workspace can turn out to be a daunting task for any start-up that engages in a recruitment drive in the pandemic times. This is primarily because in-person interactions among colleagues or between the new recruits and the existing employees become far and few between courtesy of the restrictions posed due to social distancing norms.
In order to nurture connectedness within a team linked by a hybrid structure of functioning, start-up companies face extra pressure compared to established businesses or MNCs due to a paucity of resources at the disposal of the former in majority of the cases.
How to nurture team-bonding in a hybrid work environment
A pertinent way for start-ups to address this issue is by making virtual-space interactions an integral part of the current scheme of things. Weekly catch ups, online cultural events, anonymous feedback sessions, monthly town halls, etc, ought to be incorporated as exercises aimed at cultivating the spirit of team bonding. Held at regular intervals, such drills can have a huge impact on weaving a fabric of attachment among the workforce.
Town Halls and feedback meetings, especially, should become endemic to a start-up’s culture wherein employees are given a chance to voice their opinions and concerns. These events must also be used as platforms to apprise employees of the growth and direction of the company. Moreover, virtual summits can also play a key role in enriching a team’s collective or individual knowledge bank and give the players a chance to explore scope for personal growth.
Another befitting way of strengthening team-bonding is by making employees feel valued, individually or as a group. Recognition and acknowledgement of a good performance is extremely significant. Small wins of employees should be celebrated. This can be done by empowering team managers to extend tokens of appreciation wherever and whenever applicable so that there is constant engagement and expressions of gratitude on part of team members.
For an employee in his/her early 20s, gratitude can be shown by offering free gym membership; for an employee who happens to be a working mother, it could be paediatric consultation service for her child. For others, it could be health check-ups for parents or dependants. Start-ups can also take up other wellness initiatives for its employees in the form of fitness subscriptions, mental health counselling and so on. Such gestures can go a long way in emboldening the company-employee relationship.
Team offsites are crucial when it comes to serving as a medium for helping align a working group on basics such as strategy-setting and target-understanding. Informal settings, away from the routine of the office space, can provide an incredibly conducive environment where the staff can interact and identify a vision for growth. There is an increasing trend of places like Goa having become a hotbed of start-up offsite activities in recent times. Start-ups should encourage the offsite culture and make offsite events essential fixtures held at regular intervals.
In summary, there is nothing quite like a team that bonds together at a fundamental level and espouses a set of shared values and beliefs which form the bedrock of a start-up’s culture. Stronger the bonding, greater the achievement of objectives.