Individuals today have seemingly unlimited ways of connecting with others through social media and other platforms, so it can be hard to believe that loneliness has become an epidemic in the United States.
Many of us have seen reports showing how loneliness can negatively impact an individual’s health and wellbeing but haven’t made the connection to the negative impact it can have in the workplace. Creating an environment where social support is a high-priority item in your organizational culture while taking several simple action steps can encourage a positive social culture and go a long way in enhancing employees’ social connections.
A Gallup survey found that close work friendships boosted employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work were seven times more likely to be fully engaged in their jobs. Another Gallup survey, The Twelve Key Dimensions That Describe Great Workgroups, found that those employees who not only had friends at work but also had a best friend were:
- 43% more likely to report having received praise or recognition for their work in the last seven days
- 37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development
- 27% more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important
- 27% more likely to report that their opinions seem to count at work
- 21% more likely to report that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day
It's no secret that organizations with high-performing cultures are high-performing businesses. I'm sure that almost every organization would like to see the results of employees having positive working friendships but for many companies, it is not usually high on the list of initiatives.
It’s Probably Already on Your To-Do List
With the ever-increasing challenges workforces are facing, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by another item added to the list of priorities for Human Resources and management. The good news is that helping employees improve or establish positive working relationships does not have to be a costly, time-consuming task. While it does take thoughtful communication and involves gaining employees’ trust, if developing an exceptional workplace culture is already on your project list, you are moving in the right direction.
4 Quick Tips to Create the Foundation for Positive Social Connections:
Evaluate your current culture.
Most organizations already provide opportunities for employees to have positive social interactions; they may need tweaking or to be communicated differently.
Consider your unique population.
A one-size-fits-all-solution will not work. By understanding the distinctive needs of your entire employee population, you can develop a range of opportunities that will appeal to a large number of employees. Integrate activities into the workday instead of resorting to the traditional “happy hour” as employees with families or after-work commitments are less likely to attend.
Create a social spot.
Are there areas in your office where employees can be social without disturbing others – and is this encouraged? Do you use video-chatting instead of conference calls, so employees can see who they are talking to and feel confident that they are being heard? Take inventory of the tools you already utilize for communication.
Get leadership on board.
Ensure that leadership is modeling behavior by participating in positive messaging during team meetings, town hall discussions and throughout the office in more casual settings. Utilizing tools like Slack, Teams, Zoom, etc. is an effective way to encourage positive communications and involve employees across departments, including a remote workforce.
Communication is Key
When looking at developing a work culture of social wellness, communication is a foundational aspect. Creating an environment where all levels of the workforce share constructive feedback with each other can encourage employees to become comfortable with colleagues they may not work with on a regular basis.
Modeling gratitude, positivity and celebrating successes of individuals and teams throughout the organization allows others to feel like they are working toward a common goal and have a common message to share. Encourage employees to share stories of teamwork and times when others have gone above and beyond to help get a task done. By sharing stories across the workplace, others will take notice and follow the lead.
Watch Your Efforts Pay Off Via Your Wellbeing Initiatives
Lastly, employee wellbeing initiatives are one of the best ways to encourage positive relationships and connect employees. Whether you currently have wellbeing programming or are considering starting one, these initiatives could be the catalyst for positive relationships. There are countless opportunities for employees to engage in positive activities including challenges, volunteer opportunities, outdoor excursions, participating in charitable causes, educational opportunities and learning new skills.
Encourage employees to find others within the organization to attend fitness classes with, and provide incentives for doing so. Provide educational sessions that address a variety of wellbeing topics so other employees can be introduced to new ideas and meet individuals with similar interests. Create chances for employees to work with others toward a common goal; the result will be impactful for the individuals as well as the organization as a whole.
All of these programs and ideas can counteract the negative health implications of loneliness and create a positive social culture where your employees and organization can thrive. Regardless of your organization’s structure, office set-up or employee demographics, it is clear that an increased focus on ensuring employees feel connected to their co-workers in a positive way is imperative to the success of your company’s wellbeing.