With nearly 80 percent of employees now either fully remote or hybrid, organizations are struggling to understand what that means for their companies and their people. Amidst a landscape of conflicting studies and reports, the question arises: How can organizations effectively maintain team cohesion and connectivity in an online work environment, and what strategies or tools are best for achieving this?
Companies have been grasping at straws to figure out how to support teams, boost engagement, and strengthen outcomes, and it’s hard to keep up with the latest trend. One that caught our attention is “casual collisions,” which refer to serendipitous interactions at the water cooler, lunchroom, or across a cubicle. Everyone who has worked fully in person will instinctively agree that casual collisions are some of the best things about being in person. Everyone can recall an unexpected chat with a colleague that turned into a great friendship or a mentorship relationship or sparked an innovative idea. Casual collisions are commonplace in a fully in-person office and may be one of the few things remote workers truly miss about the office.
But given how many of us work remotely or hybrid and how irregular our time together can be, it is hard to expect casual collisions, even on those days when we are in-person together, to be common. And even still, are we sure that a “collision” between two people is a worthy goal? We believe it is time to rethink and rebrand the idea, and we are proposing conscious connections.
Conscious connections are engagements that are thoughtful and intentionally planned with the purpose of deepening relationships and fostering innovation. To do it right, we think three ingredients are necessary: (1) intention, (2) collaboration, and (3) purpose.
Our experience at Common Impact is that purpose-driven engagements that are intentionally and thoughtfully curated to deepen relationships, encourage collaboration, and create impact can deliver far greater results for teams and companies. Our skills-based volunteering programs engage corporate volunteers to use their professional skills to support a nonprofit challenge in areas like strategy, finance, marketing, or human resources. We believe virtual volunteering is a perfect example of what companies should do to create conscious connections in a hybrid work environment.
Three Pillars of Skills-Based Volunteering Programs
- Intentional Collaboration: Volunteer teams are carefully curated to include members with diverse backgrounds. This ensures that each member can contribute their unique skills to the project.
- Purpose-Driven Engagement: Skills-based volunteering programs provide a structured schedule and framework for volunteers to pour their time and expertise into producing high-quality solutions for nonprofits.
- Deepening Relationships: By promoting cross-departmental connections, skilled volunteering programs increase innovation, involvement, and engagement among teams.
Impact for Teams, Companies, and Society
Whether addressing food security, supporting animal welfare, or championing environmental and sustainability initiatives, corporate volunteers are matched with nonprofits to address immediate operational needs. This purpose-driven approach ensures that volunteers can focus their time, talent, and expertise on projects that they are excited about and where they can have a tangible impact. Teams report that these engagements build camaraderie and teamwork, creating a strong bond between employees and contributing to a positive and healthy company culture.
Volunteers can utilize their unique skills across various specializations, including Technology, Data, Marketing, Human Resources, Operational Management, Event Planning, and more. This results in a dynamic collaboration of talented individuals across the company, bringing out the best in each other. An NVIDIA volunteer shared her experience, “We learned more about each other. It helped me see how my teammates think about Marketing and how to approach new problems. Seeing the way [a colleague] approached things was really cool. Not only are we helping [a nonprofit], but we are learning about each other. I think that is invaluable.”
Skills-based volunteering breaks down the potential silos within a company, creating opportunities for cross-departmental connections. An employee from Citizens shared, “I love that we continue to meet new people across the business lines and can lean on each other for each other’s skills.” Volunteers engage in projects beyond their daily responsibilities, cultivating relationships that extend beyond the confines of their day-to-day routines.” This intentional gathering and collaboration sparks innovation, strengthens team bonds, and instills a shared sense of purpose.
Skills-based volunteering is one powerful tool for companies seeking to foster meaningful connections and collaboration in a remote or hybrid work environment. Beyond the confines of physical spaces, this intentional and purpose-driven approach creates a virtual or hybrid environment where innovation, problem-solving, and team-building flourish.
In a rapidly changing workforce landscape, we believe programs that promote conscious connections will stand the test of time because of their transformative potential for deep collaboration for companies and the causes they support.