Rituals: why we need them now more than ever
Jolien Noppen

Rituals have been around since the beginning of time. From the big religious ones such as weddings and funerals, to the smaller intimate ones like scheduling regular date nights with your partner, to those we’ve almost forgotten about - when was the last time you shook someone’s hand or gave someone a kiss on the cheek?

Not only in a personal setting but also in a business context, rituals play a powerful part. They are meaningful practices which have a real sense of purpose. They script actions and interactions and help make unknown situations more predictable. Something we can all use in these times of uncertainty. 

In this article, I’ll discuss why we need rituals now more than ever. Not only on an individual level, but also within our teams and even our entire organisation. 

Why we need rituals as individuals

Rituals are not only predictable, they are also highly structured. Even if they have no direct influence over the physical world, rituals can provide a sense of control by imposing order on the chaos of everyday life. 
By creating this sense of control, rituals are powerful tools for resilience. Ever since the pandemic hit, people have been creating new rituals (or did you go for walks every day before?) or found new ways of celebrating the old rituals (raise your hand if you’ve been to a virtual wedding this year). 

At Beanmachine, my fellow beans have also been taking up some new rituals. Maybe you get inspired! 

  • Cooking together: since the pandemic, Kris and his family have started preparing their meals together as an official closing of the working day and to catch up with each other 
  • Getting ready for work: although we’ve been mostly working remotely this past year, Greet still puts on her face and shoes before leaving for work/entering her home office 
  • Making an escape (literally): although she loves them dearly, since her children moved from their student houses back to her house, Linda & her husband have been taking some more trips away from home than before (just a little)
  • Exercising 2.0: the second lockdown also meant gyms had to close their doors, again. But did that stop intern Marinus from working out? No. He got creative and relocated his ritual, using the outdoor gyms in the city to stay happy & healthy 

Why we need rituals as a team

In a recent article, bean Hans discusses how small team rituals can have huge effects on team performance. Rituals have the power to install new habits in teams and even to alter dominant convictions about how things should be done. 
Great examples of these types of team rituals are the retrospective and the check-in

  • A retrospective is a session between members of a team where they reflect on their work in a very structured way. Asking themselves what the goal was, whether they’ve achieved this goal and what they can learn from the mistakes they’ve made in the process
  • A check-in, taking place at the start of a meeting, is a quick tour-de-table within the team to check how everyone’s doing. This not only helps people get things off their chest but also helps participants to be more present in the meeting

These types of rituals form the ultimate levers for team cohesion and psychological safety. By structuring the interaction, people feel more confident to speak up and share their thoughts. This reinforces the sense of connection and belonging within teams and leads to an open, honest team culture where team members share and exchange experiences. Which in turn sparks innovation.

One of the rituals we’ve installed at Beanmachine since the pandemic is our weekly FIKA on Friday morning. A Swedish concept that can be roughly translated as a coffee break. We use these FIKA meetings not only to drink coffee and reconnect but also to share what we’ve been working on. Something bean Roel seems to be a big fan of 😉

Why we need rituals as an organisation 

Last but not least, rituals are crucial in organisations to shape the company culture and help turn a group of individuals into a close and connected collective. These rituals are often a translation of the values within the company. A company that organises weekly lunch & learn sessions shows they value (and thus want to support) continuous learning and knowledge sharing.

Besides rituals based on the values of the company, rites of passage also play an important role within organisations. Rites of passage are rituals that mark a major milestone or change in an employee’s life. Just think of onboarding a new hire or saying goodbye to a coworker going on retirement. 

With the summer holidays ahead, many are already thinking about the challenges that lie behind the break: the (partial) move back to the office and the shift from a remote to a hybrid way of working. Again, and especially then, rituals will play a powerful part when organisations and employees are confronted with new changes and challenges. 

Have you already thought about the big return back to work? Will it be a silent move or are you keen on introducing some rituals? Let us know! At Beanmachine, our mission is to make people and business thrive, together. Also in the hybrid way of working 💪

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Liked the read? Love to learn more? Let’s talk!

Jolien Noppen
+32 473 49 31 04