In a surprising turn of events, “We’re like a family here” may be more than a garbage platitude the boss feeds their team right before the latest round of budget-slashing and downsizing. Bringing family dynamics into the workplace may actually boost engagement and performance levels among employees.
“True leaders apply the principles of family life to work to create a safe, nurturing environment for individuals to really learn and grow,” says Insights CEO Andy Lothian.
When it comes to translating the principles of family life into the workplace, the most important one may be what we call “quality time.” Much in the same way that family time can have serious benefits for parents and children, quality time with a manager can help employees feel more fulfilled at work.
According to research from Leadership IQ, “the optimal amount of time [employees should] spend interacting with [their] leader[s] is six hours” per week. Employees who do get this quality time with their managers are:
- 29 percent more inspired;
- 30 percent more engaged;
- 16 percent more innovative;
- and 15 percent more intrinsically motivated.
“The idea of spending quality time with your manager isn’t much different from the benefits of family time,” says Virginia Fraser, senior communications editor at Insights. “Spending quality time with your manager affects an employee’s level of engagement, their ability to deliver results, and their ability to meet expectations.”
Quality time between managers and employees can also lead to more team cohesiveness overall, and it can help employees “grow and learn in ways [they] didn’t even know [they] needed to,” Fraser says.
And yet, making sure each employee on the team gets six hours a week with the boss is easier said than done.
“The six-hour stat can seem daunting to managers, because they already have heightened responsibilities in their roles,” Fraser says. “What can be less daunting is when managers can get creative with how they reach those six hours.”
Quality Time Doesn’t Have to Mean Formal, One-on-One Meetings
Those traditional meetings can be valuable, but spending six hours of one-on-one time with each employee every week is likely to take up a manager’s entire schedule. Aside from formal, individual meetings, Fraser suggests that managers adopt some of the following techniques to ensure that all of their employees get the time they need:
1. Hold Group Meetings
A weekly team meeting can be a great way for employees to get some quality time with their managers. Sure, it’s not one-on-one time, but it’s still time spent in close quarters with the manager and others on the team. These group meetings are especially good for building strong team-wide bonds.
2. Step Outside of Formal Settings
“Think outside of the meeting construct,” says Fraser. “Have casual catchups, grab a cup of coffee with a team member, or chat during lunch breaks.”
These informal meetings can help to “break down the walls of manager-employee hierarchy,” Fraser says. This, in turn, leads to more developed and nurturing professional relationships.
3. Leverage Technology
Managers and employees can’t always meet face-to-face. Team members may be traveling, or the manager may be traveling, or members of the team may work remotely. In these situations, Fraser encourages managers to make use of technology.
“Think about how you can utilize Skype or phones to get toward those six hours, no matter where your employees are,” Fraser says.
Help! My Manager Doesn’t Want to Spend Any Time With Me!
Some managers take the hands-off approach, spending little time with their employees. Fraser says that, often, this isn’t because the manager doesn’t want to spend time with employees. Rather, it’s because the manager doesn’t want to come across as a micromanager.
“A lot of times, managers are trying very hard not to micromanage. They know how that can be so demoralizing for employees,” Fraser says. “When [managers] aren’t connecting as much as an employee would like, it may be because they think the employee wants the space. That’s a great thing — it speaks a lot to a manager’s level of consciousness and the trust they have for employees — but that doesn’t mean that the employee doesn’t want to have that time or couldn’t benefit from it.”
If you’re an employee who wants some quality time with their manager but can’t seem to get it, Fraser says it’s time for you to “take ownership” of the employee-manager relationship.
“Schedule a weekly check-in with the manager, drop by to chat, get coffee with them,” Fraser says. “The employee can really take ownership of the relationship in the same ways that the manager can, [which we discussed above].”