It’s easy to overlook the importance of connection in today’s fast-paced work environment.
As we push through our daily tasks, meetings and projects, our focus often stays on content, leaving behind the vital element of human connection.

Especially where remote and hybrid setups have become the norm. Connection used to happen in the “in between moments” – with everyone physically in the same space, informal and impromptu connection was expected. It wasn’t something we needed to actively seek out.

Now we have to work for it.

When we meet virtually, we need to create space for connection.

Intentional connections with those around us can significantly impact workplace dynamics and create a sense of belonging among team members.

Connection fuels us – it makes us stronger, and it makes us more invested in the work we do together.

That’s why we’re challenging leaders to intentionally create opportunities for connection during any gathering of their teams.

The Power of Intentional Gathering

At Cinga, we’re big fans of Priya Parker – an expert in the art of gathering – who emphasizes the significance of gathering with purpose.

Instead of just categorizing events, like team meetings or training sessions, Parker suggests exploring the purpose behind them.

By asking questions like, “What is the need at this specific moment?” and “How do you actually want to spend the time?” leaders can create more meaningful experiences that resonate with participants.

No more meetings for the sake of meetings.

According to Parker, the single biggest mistake we make when trying to gather – whether physically or virtually – is assuming the purpose is obvious. It’s up to leaders to make sure the purpose for any gathering is clear.

One of Parker’s suggestions that we really resonate with is this one:

Every time you gather your team, you should have a specific outcome in mind – an outcome your team can buy into and that matters for your organization’s success. People should walk away from every organizational gathering feeling like they’ve been part of something that matters.

How to Prioritize Connection Over Content

If you think all of this sounds great, but you aren’t sure where to start, here are some simple, practical ways we’ve adopted Parker’s suggestions to create intentional connection and increase workplace belonging:

Build connection time into gatherings

Instead of diving straight into content during meetings, taking a few moments to connect on a personal level can set a positive tone for the discussion ahead.

This could involve sharing personal reflections, discussing recent experiences, or even participating in lighthearted icebreaker activities.

It’s a simple practice that, over time, can go a long way toward helping people get to know one another and build authentic relationships. When you take a couple of minutes at the top of a Zoom call to just check in with your team on a human level, it makes a huge difference.

We started doing this at Cinga, both internally and with clients. We use We! Connect Cards to weave in connection questions around employee experience, what people are excited about, or even some personal insight.

We’ve seen positive responses to this change. We believe it’s helping our team members feel more seen and heard on a regular basis, and it improves the quality of engagement and interaction in our discussions.

Introduce intentional rituals

These rituals, whether a weekly check-in question or a themed lunch-and-learn session, provide opportunities for team members to engage with each other beyond their professional roles.

When working together in person, this could be as simple as insisting that everyone take a lunch break at the same time – but no one can talk about work.

For virtual work sessions or meetings, it might mean taking the first 5 minutes of the call to check in and chat about non-work topics.

By also acknowledging cultural – and personal – differences and preferences, leaders can ensure that these rituals resonate with everyone and contribute to a sense of belonging. For example, the introverts on your team would appreciate advance notice and a chance to prepare for check-in questions.

This is where taking the time to learn about your team can really benefit you.

Knowing your team well enough to host fresh, inventive gatherings that feel relevant and fun for them is kind of a superpower.

Lead by example

Leaders play a tremendous role in promoting a culture of connection within their teams.

By embracing intentional gathering practices and creating meaningful moments with your colleagues, you can cultivate a sense of belonging and help build stronger relationships within your teams. By doing so, you increase engagement, productivity, and performance.