Most of us spend most of our lives at work, which is why work relationships are vital to employee wellness. The workplace, be it physical or remote, and the relationships we form often becomes an extension of our family and outside-of-work friendships, which is why it’s more about simply getting along with colleagues.

We all crave human interaction and connection with others – it’s our species trait – and if you’re an employer that endorses a culture of “you’re here to work and not to make friends” we’d ask you to think again and reassess this mantra.

Work relationships can positively or negatively affect performance, both for the individual and in some cases the team. If a workplace is a lonely environment or negative relationships are the main dish of the day, this can have a serious effect on productivity, stress levels and general happiness, manifesting in poor performance and employee health.  

If you haven’t familiarised yourself with Abraham Maslow yet, then check out his motivational theory and views on the hierarchy of human needs. The social psychologist highlights our overwhelming desire for a sense of belonging and how this can be a significant motivating factor in our lives. Therefore, having strong social connections and interactions really do make people healthier and happier which can be converted into positive performance at work.

At RE Recruitment, we subscribe to this philosophy and regularly witness the benefits of a positive social culture within the workplace. Here are just some of the perks of effective working relationships and how they can contribute to your employee wellness programme and fundamentally a successful, productive workforce:

More loyalty and engagement: Employees with positive connections become more motivated to perform at their best. Those employees with social connections and who make genuine friends at work are generally more loyal and engaged. In turn, this generates a strong culture based on trust, respect, loyalty and team cohesion, all of which are solid bases for cultivating collaboration, teamwork and innovation. Building a work environment that promotes social engagement and connection WILL improve your recruitment prospects, helping you to be regarded as a ‘go-to’ employer that cares about the workforce.

More health: Employees with positive social connections are usually healthier. Those with a strong social support network reduce the risk of depression, high blood pressure and other health problems. Some research also shows that people with a prosperous social life with meaningful relationships live longer, which is hard to ignore. This is why social interactions are so important for employee health – sick days reduce, productivity rises and you’ll witness a more energised workforce.  

But take note, some people find it difficult, and somewhat intimidating, to form effective working relationships. There are many grey areas and boundaries to negotiate when it comes to forming bonds with colleagues on a personal level, which can be overwhelming for some. By encouraging social connections, providing platforms where employees can interact and promoting social and emotional wellbeing, employers can help this process.

More happiness:  Relationships are vital for our happiness, support and self-esteem. Havard’s Study on Adult Development assessed 724 lives over 79 years and found that relationships significantly impact our happiness and life quality. They also discovered that it wasn’t the number of relationships that matter most, but the quality.

Less stress:  We all know that a stressed employee is a less productive resource and generally stress leads to absenteeism, illness, prickliness and low energy, all of which can harm a team. Shawn Achor’s research shows that one of the strongest predictors of reduced stress and increased happiness is social connection. He also highlights that friendships promote happiness and reduce feelings of stress, therefore helping employees garner social connections at work can help reduce most workplace stress.

So, what to do to promote social connections in your workplace? Here are some ideas:

  1. Celebrate successes – However small, find new ways and things to celebrate with employees beyond the usual birthdays and holidays – be innovative. Recognise employee contributions, have employee appreciation days or just take the team for lunch after reaching a goal. The little things matter and we often acknowledge our employees with recognition awards and days out.
  1. Social hubs: It’s difficult to socialise in the office, especially when some are working remotely or are in the office at different times, and if there are no suitable areas to chat. Create a comfortable area in the workplace to be social and ‘hang out’ that doesn’t disturb others. This can also be recreated online through a variety of forums and technology solutions; our online ‘Lunch and Learn’ sessions give those who don’t often work together with the chance to meet, chat, share ideas and generate wider social relationships. Also, make use of team chats, through Teams, Skype, WhatsApp etc.
  1. Department interactions: Office layouts, physical working locations and job roles can restrict department interactions. We think it’s important to introduce teammates from other departments which can provide opportunities for further social connections. Volunteering days, company events and cross-departmental meetings are just some initiatives that work well and develop an inclusive culture. Employee ideas are shared and appreciated, we get to learn more about each other and experience meaningful interactions.
  1. Team building:  So long as team-building exercises are not forced or made uncomfortable for employees, they can inspire unity and comradeship. Team-building activities such as book clubs, team quizzes, sports etc, can be used to have fun, build connections and unwind.
  1. Wellbeing challenges: Team wellbeing challenges, rather than individual, can be used to encourage social interactions. Walking, cycling or, for the ambitious, running challenges that encourage teams/departments to take more steps are great ideas. They don’t have to be physical and can be used to raise awareness by going vegan or plastic-free for a day for example. Our virtual March to Marche challenge for FareShare promoted the coming together of colleagues to achieve a common goal and make more connections along the way.  
  1. Promote positivity:  Sounds simple, although often overlooked. Employers can drive positivity through laughter, showing gratitude, rewarding positive behaviour and positive messaging. This will all contribute to creating a positive work environment and help employees be more comfortable with each other. The knock-on effect will encourage positive communication and social connections.
  1. Eat together:  Bonding at meal and break times is super simple and extremely beneficial, so encourage this through team breakfasts, monthly team lunches and company events. Morning games can also make a team breakfast more fun and energise people for the day ahead.

Encouraging a culture of wellbeing and wellness shouldn’t be regarded as a chore, but as time invested in your people and your organisation’s success strategy. Part of this journey includes developing productive social connections and enhancing employee social wellbeing. Admittedly, not everyone will be ‘besties’ or get along every minute of every day, and it’s more about promoting an environment of trust, mutual respect and belonging.

To assist with his process, think about how you can recruit the right people that gel with your culture. We’re here to help.

Sources:

Havard Study: After Studying the Lives of 724 Men for 79 Years, Harvard Reveals the 1 Biggest Secret to Success and Happiness | Inc.com

Shawn Achor Research: Be More Successful: New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Do It – Barking Up The Wrong Tree (bakadesuyo.com)

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