The 21st-century office workplace has changed beyond recognition in the last five years. The days of sitting in open office rows, call-centre style, are receding – as are the opportunities for ‘water cooler moments’, where you get to talk to colleagues away from the desk. And the notion that we go into the office five days a week, attending all in-person meetings, has all but gone.
Humans are social animals, and our time at work is essentially time with our ‘second family’. It may account for 20% of our entire lives – and, like a family, it needs other people’s input to bring it to life. Workplace bonding is an integral part of our time at work and dramatically affects job satisfaction for individuals, senior management and the business everyone is serving. How can we ensure workplace bonding leads straight to improved employee satisfaction?
Reach out – and we’ll be there!
As colleagues, you will almost certainly share the same goals and objectives. You often get to talk about these in a team environment, but only sometimes with the appropriate time and resources. Once an online meeting ends, opportunities for conversation are limited. It is worth making an effort to connect with your colleagues on a one-to-one basis or as part of a smaller group. These chats will enable you to share information, ideas, results, concerns, and vulnerabilities with trusted colleagues. This can be mutually beneficial, backing up the saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. It makes you feel better, right?
If you are looking for a greater understanding of the business you work for, building a bond with colleagues will bring that to you. Try talking to the person farthest away from you in the organisational chart of your business. Please get to know what makes them tick, who they are, what they do daily, and the issues you both might face. You’re sure to find common ground and may also be able to help your colleague with any challenges they have from afar – even through just providing a listening ear. You will gain more insight into your organisation – a big plus if you want a long-term career at your company.
Welcome and encourage new starters
We were all new once! Do you remember what it felt like on the first day? First impressions are critical, even if formed briefly in the first team Zoom call or your first-day office tour. Why not extend a welcome to new starters, finding common ground and gaining their trust? They will appreciate your efforts, and if, like you, they’re keen to make a good impression and progress within an organisation, you could become a trusted ally. Approaching colleagues in this way will enhance your understanding of the business and the people working for it.
Go beyond your shores
Do you work for a multinational company or have departments overseas? If you do, consider spending time online with a colleague from your equivalent department. When they visit or you see them, make arrangements to meet.
Don’t stop going into the office
Online working has brought us many flexible benefits. What we are in danger of losing, though, are those water cooler moments mentioned above. Online meetings are not the answer – you must be in the office if possible. Social contact and spontaneous conversations with our colleagues are restricted when working alone at home. Regular visits to the office can solve this problem. Thinking back, how many good ideas have you had talking to a colleague while making a coffee or waiting at the printer? How many vital bits of news have you learned while being in the office? To get these benefits and keep your ear to the ground, consider visiting the office once or twice a week if possible.
We are social animals
We spend 50% of our waking hours at work, so we should utilise them in a social capacity as well as a working one. Strong interpersonal bonds among teams can enable employees to cope with workplace stress and reduce anxiety. Furthermore, they can reduce issues related to workforce demotivation and loneliness.
Choose some team-building activities – some suggestions:
- Team building activities allow employees to get to know each other in a casual setting outside the office environment, which is proven to increase staff trust. Collaboration fostered during team building activities while working towards a common goal can be highly encouraging.
- When you have a new starter, why not take them for lunch to welcome them officially? They will immediately feel valued and appreciated, and you will have the opportunity to explore the new team dynamic their arrival creates.
- Use your team-building activities to celebrate achievements – promotion, engagement, a new professional qualification – or even when someone leaves for new pastures. All these events should be marked in a way that goes toward the employee(s) feeling appreciated and improves workplace bonding among all team members.
A few don’ts
As opposed to boosting employee morale and satisfaction, there are a few things to consider that can harm how people interact in an office environment:
- Wearing headphones in the office – headphones can be beneficial if we need to focus on intricate or focused pieces of work, but do we need to wear them all the time? They often cut off the conversation because the wearer can’t hear what is being said or because the person sitting close to them doesn’t want to interrupt. This often results in silence which forms a non-conversational habit between people.
- Don’t stay out of the office too long – have one or more ‘office days’ per week, where – if possible – everyone comes into the building and interacts. Try choosing a day in the middle of the week and plan, so people can avoid time-consuming online calls.
Advice for senior managers:
- Lead from the front – senior managers must set a good example when practising all the above and ensure employees do the same. A careful balance is needed here – don’t be a ‘disciplinarian’ but be aware that cautious guidance can go a long way. Consider introducing small rewards and integrating team-building ideas into company policy.
- ‘Buddy up’ – how about encouraging your employees to buddy up with a colleague from another team or department? Between them, pairs of employees could get to choose the next team activity – and that way, your staff get complete buy-in to the activities, and it doesn’t feel too much like school!
- Mentoring – have you considered this? There are bound to be people who can offer their experience as a mentor to other colleagues, which can only encourage people to get to know each other, learn new things, and develop positive relationships. Try looking at what people might be interested in learning and participating in more fun activities too.
- Get a visiting coach – if you have a larger team, you might want to consider getting a coach in for occasional visits. You must join in for this session and become ‘one of the team’, so you all operate as equals. The visiting coach can then send you out on fact-finding missions or team tasks to find out more about you as individuals and how you work in the group.
- Getting to know people socially – not everyone wants to go out with colleagues, but if you do go out for dinner and drinks (within reason!), work colleagues get to know each other in a much more social situation and can talk in a more relaxed atmosphere than the work environment.
Remember, not everyone will feel comfortable getting to know colleagues within the confines of an office or other work environment – but at least encourage people by including them in an invitation to participate. Not everyone wants to socialise with their workmates, so be mindful of other ways of introducing team-building activities that suit all sorts of people. As work colleagues, be clear about what you’d like to get out of getting to know your peers more – and as an organisation, do the same – be clear to employees why you feel it’s vital that team bonding is part of your organisation. We can respect each other while taking the time to get to know each other, and what we do so we can support each other at work.
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