As the Great Resignation or the “Great Disconnection” rages on through working remote and/or hybrid, here are four tools to help your team build stronger relationships at work. These are excerpts from a January 2022 HBR Article by Adam Smiley Poswolsky.
- Make workplace connection a ritual.
Whenever possible, create consistent connection rituals that offer praise and appreciation on an ongoing basis. An example might be Gratitude Mondays, where employees start each week by sharing something they are grateful for. Or Storytelling Fridays, where each week, a different employee can share a personal story and their coworkers can ask follow-up questions. Vulnerable sharing and storytelling spark curiosity and compassion and have been shown to foster belonging.
- Make it easier to ask for support.
According to social psychologist Heidi Grant, 75% to 90% of all help coworkers give to one another starts with making an ask. Creating reciprocity rings –a group assembled to give help, advice, resources, etc. to one another (Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take) —will help build consistency and structure into how your colleagues are able to ask for help. When employees are invested in each other’s personal growth, you will build a culture where friendships can thrive.
- Make onboarding more experiential.
Onboarding is a critical first opportunity to facilitate friendships at work. Since the pandemic, millions of employees have started new jobs and have never met one of their colleagues in-person. Especially for early career employees, this can be incredibly challenging. Joanna Miller, Asana, recommends this onboarding exercise: new employees ask their most burning questions — the things they are most uncertain or curious about with the rest of the group. Team members can then offer advice, insights, and support to them. The onboarding exercise creates psychological safety that comes from being in a safe environment to admit mistakes, ask questions, and try new things. Employees immediately experience what mutual support feels like, which creates a container for deeper connection.
- Make recharging a reality.
In the wake of a pandemic that has deepened an epidemic of loneliness and disconnection, we need to lead with compassion and take better care of each other. For human connection and friendship to thrive, we need to take employee health seriously. We can start by supporting more generous family leave policies, childcare and elder care, access to mental health services, time off for renewal, and “work-free hours” so employees can recharge by spending more time with family and friends. Having more phone calls and in-person conversations at work also reduces loneliness. During the workday, encourage “phone a friend breaks” where employees call a friend or someone important in their life (or if possible, go for a walk together). Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 50% higher level of health and well-being, a 50% greater capacity for creative thinking, and a 30% higher level of focus. Try adding “five minutes of play” to the start of in-person or virtual team meetings, in the form of a connection exercise, interactive icebreaker, or game. Time spent playing with your colleagues can lead to deeper relationships and better collaboration.
In today’s lonely world, human connection is everyone’s job. It’s an essential part of building a great place to work and a more resilient society.