Webinar highlights the importance of fostering human connection

Experts from Oracle and MMH shared ideas on boundary setting and facilitating connection.

CHRO SA recently hosted a webinar in partnership with Oracle where experts discussed the importance of human connection, among many other things, in the new world of work. Dieter Veldsman, who is the group human capital executive at Momentum Metropolitan Holdings, spoke about how important it was to have more fun and create moments that enable employees to feel connected to their organisations. He also explained that their organisation made sure employees took ownership for their roles in creating and sustaining that bond.

“We put things in place to help people connect to the culture and acknowledged our responsibilities from a leadership point of view, but we also communicated the responsibility that every employee has to show how they were going to contribute. That has been fundamental learning for us,” said Dieter.

“A lot of people felt disempowered to make decisions, especially during the national lockdown because they were not allowed to leave their homes. We were very careful in the way we dealt with the crisis, so as not to breed learned helplessness.”

Dieter said that, from the onset of the national lockdown, his team was very intentional about facilitating connection in a remote work environment. Between 9am and 9.30am on Fridays, for example, he and his team jumped on to an online call with each other, but were not allowed to talk about work.

“Creating this sense of connection was about finding new rhythms and routines. We had quizzes, we had sessions called ‘meet the family' where we all introduced our families to each other, and one person, for instance, would introduce their dog that is always barking in the background during our team meetings.”

Oracle South Africa HR director Queen Mokonoto said she was the kind of person who typically manages by going on walkabout, connecting with employees at their desks and talking to them in the corridors of the office building.

“So we have also had to be more intentional about creating connections. One avenue has been to have coffee breaks via Zoom. Our employee assistance programme also created sessions providing tips on how to work remotely Those who were interested were also able to participate in yoga and meditation sessions,” said Queen.

Setting boundaries

Organisations had to be careful about boundaries, which are still a difficult area of management. This is because, “when people worked from home before, remote working was simply a change of office location. So if my team was at the office from 8am to 5pm and I worked from home, I only needed to be at my desk from 8am to 5m. But that's not what’s happening today,” said Rob Bothma, master principal consultant at Oracle South Africa.

“A week after Easter I realised that I was working so much that I wasn't even going outside. I would go to my home office early in the morning and, from there, I walked to dinner. My boss suggested I add a lunch hour and tried to do that by blocking my calendar out everyday between 12pm and 1pm, but I very rarely had the opportunity to use this lunch hour.”

Dieter agreed, saying that organisations and their leaders needed to help people set boundaries. That meant not expecting people to respond to emails sent late in the evening or on the weekends, which was when some people preferred to get work done.

“In our workforce, people were starting to work harder. There was a sense that people were worried about the uncertainty at the time and felt the need to prove that they added value to the business. In the long term, that can lead to burnout, so that was one of the things we were careful of,” said Dieter.

The webinar ended with attendees having more knowledge and insight into making the transition to the “new normal” easier for their employees.