According to a study by BetterUp Labs, the scientific research team of virtual-coaching platform BetterUp, more than 60% of people do not socialize with their coworkers outside of work. At the same time, 43% said that they don’t feel a sense of connection to coworkers and 22% don’t even have one friend at work.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and its social distancing and remote work guidelines, had exacerbated the issue of loneliness in the workplace. It also emphasized the need for stronger work ties as more than 50% BetterUp respondents said that they would trade some of their compensation for friendship with their colleagues.
Author and friendship expert Shasta Nelson said, “A lot of us are getting less interaction, and we’re telling ourselves that we’re okay with that.” However, she added that the more we get used to that feeling, the less we even realize it’s an issue.
Fortunately, business magazine Fast Company has laid out some effective ways to foster more connections in the workplace.
- Prioritize connection over convenience. Employees and employers need to be more intentional about creating opportunities for employees to form bonds, especially in a remote work environment. This should be given priority from time to time, even at the cost of productivity.
- Create space for personal details. Finding time for employees to connect and discuss personal details like hobbies, family, or weekend plans fosters better connection. BetterUp Labs occupational health psychologist Erin Eatough said these talks “actually matter for building connections with people” as it trickles out to “how teams perform, how committed people are, [and] their intentions to stay.”
- Find ways to elicit positive emotions. Ice-breakers and team-building exercises are ways to foster positive emotions in the workplace. Through these exercises, coworkers learn more about each other and their common interests. Opportunities to connect and collaborate can lead to some of the spontaneous moments that can be integral to forming workplace friendships.
- Normalize appropriate vulnerability. Shasta Nelson said that an important part of connecting is vulnerability. People have to feel comfortable opening up to each other. Leaders can encourage sharing and connection by offering details about themselves, even if it makes them feel vulnerable.
Nelson further stated that it is important to practice these steps during the onboarding process. She added that connecting new hires with office mentors can lay the groundwork for more workplace friendships and positive workplace relationships.