How To Encourage Healthy Work Relationships

Kelli Koschmann, CPO at Showpad
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In-office, remote or hybrid, employees want to feel you have their back, says Kelli Koschmann, chief people officer at Showpad.

What do employees want from their employer? To feel set up for success, says Kelli Koschmann, chief people officer at Showpad.

Koschmann, who is based in the company’s U.S. headquarters in Chicago, gives her take on how HR leaders can help foster that sentiment, no matter whether employees are working on-site or remotely, and what supporting employees means for work relationships and culture.

How do you encourage employees to remain productive and motivated while working from home?

When I think of motivation, I don’t distinguish between working from home and working from an office. I always turn to science and psychology, and I think what people need to thrive is fairly simple: they need purpose, a sense of belonging, connection to the organization and the ability to make an impact. Essentially, people want to feel set up for success at work and life. 

With blurred lines of work-life balance while working from home, how can companies and teams set up boundaries outside of work hours?

This is so important. The past few years have been tough to say the least. We need to focus on creating psychological safety and mental well-being in our workplaces, in order to have productive and motivated teams. Healthy boundaries is one aspect of mental well-being. Establishing healthy boundaries has both an individually owned component and an organizational culture and systems component. 

Individuals all own deciding what healthy boundaries are for them and maintaining them. For example, everyone has a different biorhythm—think morning person or night owl—and different life circumstances. 

Organizations can certainly support individuals creating healthy boundaries, by designing workplace and team norms. As we’ve moved to a hybrid work environment, we have drafted a hybrid working playbook, which outlines elements of flexibility and expectations. This is a complex thing to navigate for an organization with hundreds of people distributed across the globe. 

How do you encourage healthy working relationships and avoid team disconnection while working from home?

I think this takes discipline and breaking down imaginary boundaries and blockers. Because we don’t have the natural collision of seeing people in a shared physical space, people tend to interact and invest in the relationships with those they work most closely with on a daily basis. This is something that feels natural and just makes sense. Reaching out and asking for time with folks you’ve never met and with whom you don’t work directly can feel intimidating—and people often don’t think it’s socially acceptable to do it.

This is where tools like donutbot in Slack can help. Donutbot automates the random social connection and provides a framework and structure around making it happen. Additionally, in our larger company-wide meetings and events, we try to implement moments for employees to connect in randomized breakout sessions. Once people realize how rewarding and beneficial connecting with others is, my hope is that people see beyond perceived barriers that exist in the hybrid world and challenge themselves to do this more often.

How can culture be improved while hybrid?

There are many definitions of culture. One framing that Gartner uses is “identity, purpose and community.” Showpadders live our culture in the work they do, the impact they have and the relationships they are part of. Data from Gartner indicates the more flexibility employees have, the more likely they are to feel connected. So, instead of seeing flexibility and hybrid work as an obstacle to culture and connectedness, we should consider flexibility a crucial part of driving culture. 

All of that said, I think it comes back to intentionality. We have to be more mindful of the employee experience of folks connecting remotely and in-person. A good example of our intentional effort was at our recent Showpad Kick Off. We created a hybrid event where we encouraged folks located near an office or hub—or an area where multiple remote employees live—to join together in person to attend.

We invited every hub and office to show the space they were working in, the people they were working with, and share a bit of history or cultural knowledge of the location. We included remote folks joining independently to also share fun facts about where they are joining from. This resulted in a much deeper sense of connection for our global team.

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