The power of Connection at Work: The Importance of Relationships
We spend 1/3 of our lives at work.
And research across decades has proven time and time again that connection matters more than we tend to give it credit for. If 1/3 of our lives is spent absent of any meaningful relationships – or worse, filled with cantankerous ones, it’s inevitably going to take a toll on our well-being.
But how can we build meaningful relationships in a professional capacity without crossing boundaries or forsaking our privacy?
Well, fortunately, relationships don’t have to be completely indulgent or even intimate to be meaningful. In fact, meaningful relationships are generally developed through consistent positive social connections, which are built on areas like:
- Effective communication
- Empathy, care, consideration and support
- Trust and consideration
- Praise and appreciation
- Levity, lightness or fun
Benefits that come with building strong social connections in the workplace, such as:
- Positive impact on mental, emotional and physical health
- Higher engagement and productivity
- Lower absenteeism and increase loyalty
- Reduced likelihood of injury
- Quicker return to work rates for the sick and injured
Longitudinal studies of adult development have found that more than money and fame - close relationships are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Ultimately, over the lifespan this results in:
- Higher self-esteem
- Increased empathy
- Reduced rates of depression and anxiety
- Enhanced emotional regulation
In order to harness these benefits at work, managers and employees alike should facilitate peer-to-peer and manager-to-employee connections, by focusing on the following key outcomes.
1. Creating and inclusive and welcoming environmentThis is a concept that starts even before day one. From how employees are onboarded and throughout their entire experience, inclusion and welcoming are an ongoing project – not something that can be done once and then forgotten. A few simple ways to begin this effort is to establish a baseline or pulse check to determine the current state of inclusion, meet people where they are by asking what would make them feel welcomed, and then act from that set of data.
2. Building supportive supervisor and employee relationships
This can be facilitated through the implementation of check-ins that are distinct from performance management check-ins, demonstrating care and concern for employee well-being, and generally ensuring that employees have all of the tools required in order to perform their roles effectively.
3. Facilitating supportive coworker relationshipsIf employees are overwhelmed with their workload, working in siloes that make it difficult to collaborate, or otherwise in an environment where small talk and banter are discouraged, it will be difficult for them to build relationships with their colleagues.
4. Facilitating support and belonging - especially for underrepresented or marginalised employees
This includes employees from nontraditional backgrounds, employees from cultures that may not be represented in the office, and any group that is otherwise marginalised. It’s critical to examine their perceptions of inclusion and belonging, as it may drastically differ from the majority.
5. Building conditions for effective teamwork
This means creating an environment where psychological safety and trust are present and one where collaboration and teamwork are encouraged and rewarded in a way that ensures the workload is fairly divided and recognised.
While of course this is easier said than done, by focusing attention on these five outcomes areas, managers and employees alike will be contributing to building an environment where human connection, empathy, and well-being are able to flourish – creating a better environment for everyone and one where the business is able to thrive.
With expertise in Positive Organisational Science, Wellbeing, D&I, Education, and so much more, Elle has worked across industries and continents in sectors such as Management Consulting, Finance, Education, and Technology. Consistently, her goal is to bring evidence-based principles of positive organisational science and psychology to workplaces through direct service, training, consulting, content creation and beyond.
Elle Mason People Science Lead (Innovation and Content Specialist) at inclusio