If you Really Knew Me…..

How Being Vulnerable Can Inspire 

Human Connection in a Hybrid Workplace

What started as a simple warm up exercise to encourage co-worker connection during the pandemic is gaining traction on reigniting human connection in a hybrid workplace.

Digital Wellness Expert Mark Ostach, keynote speaker and author of “Courage to Connect”, works to restore focus and bring digital wellbeing to organizations battling a growing sense of disconnection. 

He began using an icebreaker exercise called ‘If You Really Knew Me’ to help encourage social connection when employees worked remotely. Ostach begins the exercise by sharing personal insight about himself to the group such as, “If you really knew me, you would know….I have two kids, I experience seasonal depression, and I’m a huge Kenny G fan :)” The statements he shares range from being more informational to being more vulnerable.

18 months later, Ostach is amazed by the effectiveness and momentum of the exercise. He often receives feedback by former participants about how sharing things that are vulnerable in nature has brought them closer with their coworkers, some of whom they’ve never met in person.

“ ’If You Really Knew Me’ is like an icebreaker on steroids,” says Ostach. “It will take time for employees to get back in person and to connect beyond the surface. The exercise sparks virtual vulnerability and gets people connected right out of the gate. Inspiring connection in a hybrid workplace is key for fostering a culture of connection and helping employees learn to handle their stress in a healthy manner. 

It is critical for managers to demonstrate empathy for the changes employees are going through and understand ways to restore energy and team member interaction.”

Ostach adds the exercise is also good for managers to take some time to be more relational in their connections as opposed to being transactional with our interactions when we only focus on the task at hand. He stresses leaders need to be intentional with creating space for connection.

“I love witnessing leaders be vulnerable and connect with courage! I believe fostering ways to encourage social connection is going to be the most important skill as we move forward with the hybrid workplace. It also allows people to get to know each other more meaningfully. It’s a great supplement for the type of conversations that tend to happen at the water cooler or over a working lunch.” 

Ostach observes when the pandemic began in spring 2020, employees adapted to learning, living, and leading from home. While this has created flexibility and autonomy among teams, this can also create a sense of disconnection and isolation.

Responses from employees at Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurial startups included:

If You Really Knew Me You’d Know That…

  • I’m trying to approach middle age gracefully!
  • I was recently diagnosed with severe sleep apnea.
  • My mother died last month and I’m struggling to get out of bed.
  • I’ve been estranged from my brother for the past 20 years
  • I have 2 overweight cats that sleep by my home office while I work all day 

“The most impactful time spent facilitating virtual meetings is watching employees be more vulnerable and share their emotions,” shares Ostach. “ I’ve seen C-Level executives offer information in a global meeting that puts them in a place of trust and vulnerability as they’ve shared the recent passing of a parent. I’ve seen new hires get to know their team in short order by learning about personal facts through the ‘If you really knew me’ exercise. 

Ostah adds that, “If you really knew me, you’d know that It’s been such a joy to witness social connection through this exercise!”

Ostach helps people find the courage to connect—with themselves, their purpose, and with the people in their lives—both online and offline. Ostach’s goal is to restore energy and focus to organizations battling modern life’s non-stop pace and growing sense

of disconnection. He’s done this locally with organizations like DTE, Quicken Loans, Consumers, MEDC, & Honigman and nationally with global companies like BASF,  AllState, HItachi, and others. 

He’s on a mission to teach people healthy digital habits so they can improve their digital wellness and create deeper connections with things in life that matter most.

Digital Wellness Expert Mark Ostach in the News: