Building Comfortable Communities

People Skills Courses

Harvard has recently published a number of papers with some interesting titles. They include the following:

  • Sleep Deprivation Can Make It Harder to Stay Calm at Work
  • Time for Happiness
  • Why You Should Work Less and Spend More Time on Hobbies
  • Treat Your Weekend Like a Vacation
  • Prevent Burnout by Making Compassion a Habit
  • Stressed at Work? Mentoring a Colleague Could Help
  • The Pros and Cons of Perfectionism
  • What Makes Some People More Productive Than Others
  • How CEOs Manage Time
  • Are New Graduates Happier Making More Money or Having More Time?

The titles alone make interesting reading, providing lots of food for thought. There’s definitely a common theme here; perhaps along the lines of ‘ensuring we don’t burn ourselves out’.

Recently we’ve been developing our own thinking around the importance of building comfortable communities. We are convinced it’s part of what high functioning teams do; they create environments that care for one another.

Teams that get this, realise a phenomenal benefit that has been forsaken in recent decades, yet can deliver very hard benefits as well as untold soft advantages. It’s an obvious thing to say, but people who make no time for themselves (or others) tend to operate in highly stressful performance zones. Often this leads to super unhelpful consequences both at work and at home. The research from those clever people like Harvard is all stacking up to suggest ‘performance comes most readily and satisfactorily when people balance their own lives and their shared communities, to be healthy prosperous, safe environments’ – or as we put it, comfortable communities.

It is both the personal and the corporate arenas that you need to focus on if you want to develop high functioning environments that nurture as well as perform. The easiest of those to impact is of course your own world. Take stock and work out whether you are giving yourself enough down time, but also enough stimulus outside of work. Ask yourself which one or two things (within your control) would enrich your life if you made the change to introduce them regularly.

The exercise would be equally beneficial for your team, it’s just a little bit harder to implement some ideas within the constraints of an organisation. It is however very possible and frequently very acceptable to increase the comfort and security of your working community. We recently visited a clients premises located in the middle of nowhere! Yet they had catered extremely well for the sizeable community that worked on that site. Throughout any periods of dry weather the BBQ coals are set alight mid morning to allow anyone to rustle up an awesome alfresco meal by midday. We spotted teams outdoors around picnic tables having meetings. They sounded fun and noisy. Individuals in deck chairs were spotted typing on their laptops beside the canal that runs past the office. The tuck shop was a sight to behold. All simple ideas, but collectively these and other small things gave the location such a cool and comfortable vibe. A real sense of community.

Some commentators are suggesting the era of lining shareholders pockets may be on the cusp of giving way to the creation of safe communities. Environments that exist to support the members, not to make a few rich. I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one, but it is relatively simple to build better, more comfortable communities within our teams. Think individually, then collectively and see what you can do to build high function into your teams.

Bob Bannister
Ships Captain