For a long time, many workplaces were just that: places of work, and not somewhere to forge friendships. But with more people desiring meaningful jobs, where social connections are fundamental, bonding with colleagues is increasingly crucial. This level of camaraderie has numerous benefits, with 70% of workers stating that workplace relationships are the most important factor in achieving a happy work life. Those with a work best friend are also 63% more likely to be fully engaged with what they do. And these findings make sense—having supportive friends at work can make a job far more worthwhile.
So, if you’re an entrepreneur or team leader, it’s essential that you build strong relationships with your employees, as well as help them cultivate connections with one another.
Organise non-work-related activities
While they say you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, social events are the most obvious way to create friendships. All work and no play means you and your colleagues may almost exclusively talk shop and know very little about each other’s lives outside the office. By socialising, you and your team can get to see different sides to one another, away from the stresses of work.
There’s no one way to encourage your employees to socialise—It could be something as simple as organising post-work drinks or a team lunch every so often, to physical activities like team yoga or fitness classes. You don’t even have to leave the office to facilitate team bonding—why not set up a work lottery syndicate and enter lottery draws together as a team each week, or organise a Friday quiz with prizes for the winners?
Encourage interdepartmental collaboration
Getting different departments to work together more frequently can also improve office relationships. Research shows that 54% of workers feel a strong sense of community will encourage them to stay at a company longer, and this can be harnessed through collaboration. Without regularly working directly with each other, workers can begin to feel isolated—in fact, 27% of those who leave a company within a year cite feeling “disconnected” as a major contributing factor. This can also be hugely detrimental to the quality of work produced.
But collaboration between departments should be more holistic than simply cooperating with each other on work tasks from time to time. It necessitates a shared vision and a mutual understanding of each other’s roles, and how different skillsets can be utilised during certain projects. Scheduling regular cross-team check-ins and interdepartmental reviews enable departments to learn about one another, before being used to touch base and collaborate more effectively. You could also introduce corporate instant messaging tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams so that staff can always contact one another quickly. Finally, it’s crucial to celebrate wins together, as recognising shared success again helps foster a sense of community, and improve relationships.
Recognise and praise good work
According to a recent study, 50% of workers believe that receiving praise at work helps to improve work relationships, as well as build trust. Acknowledging the contributions of those who help you succeed will help encourage your employees to do the same. As Dr Whillans of Harvard Business School explains, this “builds social connections in a workplace, which helps people feel more fulfilled at work”.
So how exactly can you give your staff the recognition they deserve? Even a gesture as small as leaving a Post-it Note on an employee’s desk or sending them an email when they’ve done something important can work. That said, giving recognition to individuals in front of the whole team is even more powerful. You may also want to give gifts to reward particularly impressive work, as well as offering them new responsibilities within the company.
When giving praise, make sure to always specifically state what your employee did, how this added value to the company, and thank them by name. It’s also advisable to mix up your praise, as it will lose its impact if you keep repeating the same things.