Building social connections with your work colleagues will improve your team’s resilience. When you know the people you work with, you’re more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt if they do something that hurts you. You’ll also be more likely to work through conflict and collaborate on projects more effectively.
While parties are the most common way to encourage social interaction at work, they are not that effective. They can overwhelm introverts, who will often avoid the party. People tend to talk only to people they already know at a party, rarely meeting new people. And, research shows that when people engage only in small talk, which parties promote, they become less close over time.
Instead, look for activities that promote meaningful conversations and forge authentic connections. Here are some suggestions for ways you can build strong connections in the workplace:
Ask a colleague to lunch
Eating together is a social glue that strengthens relationships and fosters personal connections. Cornell psychologist Brian Wansink studied firehouses and found that firefighters who shared group meals performed better as a team than firefighters who ate solo. You don’t need to spend money in a restaurant, eating together in a break room or on a park bench is enough.
Be creative together
Instead of planning a traditional team off-site, consider hosting an event where the team works together on a creative project. One of my favorite group activities are PaintFests organized by the Foundation for Hospital Art. Another option is an annual Share Your Passion event where employees demonstrate their hobbies for each other.
Start a book club
Book clubs are a great way to build camaraderie while also improving professional development among staff. Check out this website for pointers on how to start a book club at work.
Create working groups
Identify organization-wide issues that would benefit from collaboration and problem solving and create working groups to develop ideas and solutions. In addition to bringing people together from different work units, you’ll also provide growth opportunities for working group chairs.
Create a workspace that brings people together
Whether it’s a water cooler, jigsaw puzzle table, or shared coffee maker, ensure your workplace has a space that naturally encourages people to gather. Conversations that take place while we wait for the coffee to brew can be compelling.
Encourage wellness activities
If you have space, organize regular yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, or other wellness activities sessions. Step competitions are another way to build relationships. In addition to improving the well-being of employees, these activities will strengthen bonds between participants.
Encourage employees to train for work in other units and divisions. Cross-training will improve professional development while creating connections between people across the organization.
Strike up conversations in the elevator
It amazes me how often people spend time together in an elevator without talking. Make it a point to say hello to people you meet in an elevator and then follow up with a question that sparks a conversation.
What do you do in your workplace to build connections?