Working in an office environment can be rough when you're on a deadline, nothing is working the way it needs to, and everyone is in a bad mood. If this happens to you often, you may be struggling to work out how you got into this situation yet again. You may be wondering why none of your employees want to work together, why you've been experiencing an unusual amount of turnover, or why no one is ever excited to get to the office. You may also be surprised to discover just how much you'll learn about your workplace when you prioritize connecting with your employees. If you're ready to bond with your employees and coworkers and improve your workplace, here are four ways to boost that connection.
1. Pay Attention To Hobbies
Your employees are not worker drones, they are human beings with interests that exist outside of the office. If you want to have a deeper connection with them, start paying attention to the hobbies they enjoy and slip into conversations. If one of them enjoys sports, consider playing ESPN Radio in the break room during lunch. Pay attention to the game schedules and ask about them the following day. Even taking time out of your busy day to ask about favorite players can show your employees that you see them as more than a human calculator. If your employee knits on their lunch break, ask about their techniques and acknowledge the patience and skill that goes into making even a simple item. You never know, you might even get into yoga when someone offers to teach a class just for the office.
2. One-On-One Meetings
Asking for feedback from your employees is great, but asking in a large group can create a few problems. It may be uncomfortable for someone to be the first to speak up, especially if it appears that no one else is having any issues. This may also discourage anyone from saying anything after the fact as well. Taking the time to speak to everyone individually can make the situation a little more private and comfortable, but it's still important to remember how intimidating it can be to give feedback to someone above you in the office hierarchy. You don't necessarily have to hold these meetings every week, but doing so on a consistent basis can help people feel heard, and you may be surprised at what you learn about your workplace. One last piece of advice on individual meetings: if you're going to hold these meetings, make sure something comes out of them. If your employees are asking for support and you're not giving it to them, these meetings won't be helping, they'll be performative, and your employees will know. Not only will you lose your opportunity for connection, you'll destroy any trust between you.
3. Activities Outside of the Office
Work parties can be fun, but all too often they feel like an extension of the work day. Getting the team out of the office can be the breath of fresh air you all need. A change of location and pace can open up all sorts of avenues for inspiration and creative problem solving. You can do special team building activities designed for corporate groups, or you can change it up so it doesn't feel like a work field trip. Try volunteering together or even taking a class to learn something new, like pottery. There are all sorts of unconventional corporate events now, like curated Dungeons and Dragons sessions! Seeing each other in a different environment can open up all sorts of opportunities for connection. A word of warning though, try not to steal anyone's weekend, and if Saturday is the only day you can make it work, don't make it mandatory. In the same vein, no one wants to clock out at five just to head to a "team building activity," that doesn't get done until seven or eight. Everyone will be drained, and you won't win any points with families or significant others. Office hours are best.
4. Reward Personal Achievements
In addition to connection over hobbies, take it a step further and reward your employees for their achievements both in and out of work. Don't pry into their personal business, but if they bring up goals they want to meet, offer encouragement along the way and acknowledge when those goals are met. Your employees may be pursuing graduate degrees, training for athletic events, adopting children or pets, or buying property and taking on big renovation projects. These may or may not seem trivial to you, but they can be big, life-altering events that impact their performance at work. When people feel seen and supported, they are more likely to be excited about the work they do.
Your employees have a direct impact on the success of your company, and you are in a unique position to acknowledge and reward them for the work they put in. When you work hard to establish connections throughout your workplace, you can develop a healthy and happy work culture that encapsulates the values of your brand.