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  • Writer's pictureKatya Tempfli

ReConnect trainings – Back to the office!

How to support your team in moving back from home office to the regular working environment

We held a team (re)building training series at a large international company using the tools of applied improvisation. Here are our experiences.

In recent years, it has become the norm to run our work and our lives from our bedroom or living room, in front of a monitor. We've hated it, loved it, discovered it – and finally got used to the new system: seeing our colleagues in 4x5 squares, in two dimensions on the screen, informal chats over Messenger at coffee breaks, and no personal contact even with the food delivery guy at noon.

The pandemic seems to be over. It's back to business as usual: back to the office, back to a live working environment, back to people, back to community, with real interactions and the inevitable conflicts that go with them. For many of us, this was a challenge, even if we were happy to finally step outside the four walls and get back into the same airspace as our colleagues. We’ve had to recreate and learn new ways of being a community, adapting to the changes that have taken place.

How can applied improvisation-based training support a workplace collective in this?

1. Learning to see our own behaviour and its impact on others from the outside

We know we should work together, but we don’t always know how to work together. In a hybrid working environment, with a completely different schedule from our immediate colleagues, this is perhaps even more true. On the trainings we inspired the teams to share, to turn conflict into collaboration and to coalesce around a common goal. We explored together what collaboration looks like and sounds like, why is collaboration more effective than compromise, and found out what it means to truly collaborate and be a real part of an effective team in practise.

2. A playful and enjoyable approach to the areas to be developed

Applied improv takes the principles of improvisation for the theatre and applies them in a business context. But we are not training actors: we are achieving human development by using theatrical tools and techniques. The method is founded in practice, we believe that people improve by doing. We have a diverse toolbox: we can play the docile dolphin, the smooth bellhop, the cackling hotel guest or the bloodthirsty zombie. We also used forum theatre to explore and analyse the participants' current workplace conflicts point by point. They came away with a practical toolset they can use in many different settings. 

3. Communication becomes more colourful and diverse. Participants show a new face

To connect, build, resolve and achieve together, we need understanding. This is done through listening and sharing. Taking what we see and hear from others and expressing ourselves honestly. By listening actively, free of judgement, we establish this trust. And the tools to really listen to each other are sometimes surprisingly simple and easy to develop. We worked on eye contact, body language, gestures and non-verbal communication. We also learned that, despite our inner motivation, our good attitude and empathy towards the other, it is not necessarily obvious to the partner. It is our responsibility to make our intentions clear in our communication. Then people look for where they are aligned rather than divided and can communicate authentically, clearly and with a constructive motivation. 

4. Group and individual specific exercises for development

Participants were enriched with practical techniques that can be applied in a variety of settings and situations, and the experience was deepened through shared interpretation and practice. Through playful, enjoyable but effective exercises, and by experiencing real and simulated situations, we helped our participants to recognise the difficulties they face when returning to the office.

We have given them tools and techniques to strengthen their ability to find constructive solutions together and to approach their colleagues with an open and curious attitude. Whether it's the temperature in the office or major business decisions that need to be agreed: an assertive, attentive and inquisitive attitude can help you work together effectively and in good humour.

Grund Essentials offers communication skills training and organisational development workshops for the corporate sector, using the tools of theatre improvisation. Theatre techniques applied in a business context: it’s the method of applied improvisation that leads to more effective leaders, more collaborative team members and happier people.

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