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7 Ways HR Leaders Can Use Positive Psychology To Support Hybrid Teams



We are currently living in a time that has rocked our routines and priorities and for many of us, this year has been an emotional roller coaster. For leaders, this has brought additional responsibility for supporting the wellbeing and safety of team members. And for HR leaders in particular, this has meant rapid changes to policies, processes and priorities.

As we go into “lockdown 2” and start to face up to a long winter ahead of us, we are noticing that the leaders we work with are flagging. So much energy has been put into keeping everyone going for the past six months and the thought of finding the energy to do it all again is really tough.

Evidence suggests that positive emotions boost work performance for ourselves and those around us. Clearly, there is also a close relationship with wellbeing and resilience too.

However, positive psychology is about much more than just being upbeat and thinking positively. We know, in fact, forcing people who are not natural optimists to “just think positively” can do more harm than good – both unrealistic optimism and extreme pessimism can be detrimental.

One of the legends in the field of positive psychology, Christopher Peterson, defines it this way:

“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.”

Positive psychology is about finding meaning as well as finding happiness – happiness is important for our wellbeing in the present, whilst meaning is rooted in our past and our future.

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology has identified five facets within his PERMA model (2011):


So as HR leaders, what can we do for ourselves, our teams and our organisations to use positive psychology to bring about benefits to performance and wellbeing?


1. Reach out to the people who make you feel good

Which of your interpersonal interactions make you feel drained and which make you feel warm and energised? Make a conscious effort to book in time with the people who boost your positive emotions.

How is your organisation supporting informal, social relationships? Are work interactions mainly Teams meetings focused on objectives, targets and reporting back on what’s been done? Either set specific sessions for social time or ensure that each meeting starts and finishes with a “how is everyone doing”? Microsoft have introduced “Recharge Fridays” when no work-based meetings are allowed, encouraging people to have social catch-ups or just knuckle down on their to-do list before the weekend.


2. Manage emotional contagion

A friend of mine observed recently “why is everyone I work with so grumpy!?” And that could well be down to emotional contagion. Our emotions are highly contagious and it doesn’t take long for one grumpy person to infect a whole (virtual) room. The good news is that positive emotions are also contagious and that we can even fool ourselves into happiness if we smile enough. So sometimes it’s down to the leader to “fake it until we make it” for the benefit of the whole team!


3. Give, and receive, acts of kindness

Random acts of kindness have proven benefits both for the giver and the taker. According to positive psychology research, being the recipient of an act of kindness makes you more happy whilst givers experience more meaning. Think about the small acts you could do to add to someone else’s happiness. And appreciate what others do for you – accept that compliment, say “yes” when someone offers you a cup of tea or a helping hand.


4. Identify strengths

Understanding and utilising our strengths makes us feel energised and motivated as well as improving performance. According to Martin Peterson, crises reveal character…what new strengths have you uncovered about yourself and your colleagues this year? Have the leadership strengths that your organisation needs now changed? Have you identified and articulated what “great” looks like and are you using this to adapt development, recognition and recruitment?


5. Set achievable goals

I know that at times over the past six months I have felt like I’m drowning in my “to do” list, particularly with the added challenges of working from home and schooling my children. At these times, setting small, achievable goals can be a lifesaver for making me feel like I’m getting back in control. For some people, focusing on the toughest thing on their list can be helpful whilst for others, chomping through all the small tasks in one sitting can increase their sense of accomplishment.

Another idea is to hold an “integrity day” where individuals agree their tasks and phone colleagues every hour to hold each other to account. Recognising and celebrating even relatively small achievements can give a big boost to wellbeing. How do you and your team work to ensure you feel like you are achieving something?


6. Find positive emotions

Sometimes we need to put a bit of work in to seek out positivity. Our colleague, Sally Evans, suggests going in search of positive emotions: joy, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, love, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope. What makes you feel these things? Pick one and keep searching in your memory, or on a walk, or through your photos until you feel that emotion.

Contact us for details of how Sally’s wellbeing video packages could help you support your teams.


7. Get balance and be realistic

Whilst approaching problems with a positive mindset can support our wellbeing, perseverance and confidence, it would be naïve to suggest that we can solve all our problems just by “thinking positively”. Unrealistic optimism or forcing pessimists into positivity can actually do more harm than good.

As HR Leaders, we will need to take hard decisions and to have difficult conversations. Positive psychology doesn’t advocate ignoring what is wrong but it can be used to find light in dark situations. So be kind, be honest, be compassionate – both to yourselves and to others.


For more information about positive psychology and our virtual internal learning services for hybrid teams click here.


Written by Pip Gwynn, Director.

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