A shift into home working during a pandemic has left the lines between work and home blurred. Staff need work to be a supportive environment where they can be themselves and if we use active listening we can create that space.
Respecting each other, confidentiality and providing a supportive environment where people can be themselves are all key to an effective wellbeing discussion within your staff team. We try to create this environment through active listening.
The shift to home working has challenged the dated ideas of professional practice, which typically left little room for diversity and inclusion. What has emerged in the fast-paced shift to home working is that many people have had no option, home life became part of the work life picture whether we wanted it or not. It has not been uncommon to see a colleague be interrupted by a child or family member or to have the background noise of emergency home repairs taking place. We are getting to see the bigger picture of our colleagues lives, which is usually masked in an office environment, often seen as not ‘fitting in’ with working priorities.
So how do we support each other in this new, unpredictable working environment? Well, in Inclusion Scotland’s internship team, our weekly ‘Check In’s’ allow us to pull resources so we can flex and shift to support each other. If someone’s caring responsibilities have increased one week, we club together to support that colleague. When the schools were shut, as a team we knew that parents may need to have more flexibility to manage home and work life. If someone is particularly affected by triggering media content or someone is struggling because their social care support has been reduced, we can respond quickly, not after the problem becomes compounded with inflexible and ignorant working practice.
But to be able to act quickly we need an environment where colleagues feel allowed to be open honest about how they’re doing, in work and out. We can use active listening to create this space and strengthen our connections with colleagues.
How to actively listen
Pay attention - No emailing or messaging in the background, be fully present. It can also be helpful to note how you feel before going into a session or one to one.
Withhold judgment – try to suspend opinions and have an open mind.
Reflect- Don’t assume you understand, reflect back key points you have taken for confirmation and clarity.
Clarify- Ask questions if you haven’t understood and don’t assume, asking questions allows the speaker to apply self-reflection and feel heard.
Summarizing- Restating key themes coming from the conversation allows you to confirm your understanding of the individuals or groups main points and can provide better connection.
Share- Once you have gained a clear understanding you can begin to introduce your perspective. Giving ideas or feelings, you may have a thought or experience to share triggered by what was said. This sharing continues to build on that all important team or one to one connection.
If you’re interested in becoming a better listener then check out the Open University’s Free OpenLearn course, “Effective communication in the workplace”.
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