How To Foster Greater Human Connection at Work
Content Editor at Workvivo
16 Jul 2023
We’ve got just the ideas and steps you need to learn how to improve human connection at work, improving the workplace experience for every single one of your employees.
While research shows that most employees have a friend at work and this positively influences their satisfaction, it’s often just one friend. That means a lot of your own employees might not feel connected to as many colleagues as they’d like.
Building close relationships with colleagues is by far the most important aspect in determining if a person is satisfied at a job or not for as many as 77% of employees.
If you don’t know how your employees are feeling or you’ve got some insights and are planning on improving connection in the workplace, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s jump into our tried-and-tested process for fostering better human connection at work.
Why is human connection at work important?
Human connection is at the very core of the employee experience. Sure, today’s remote and digital workplaces have altered the ways we interact. But feeling socially connected is not only a basic human need; it also plays a vital role in building trust and a sense of wellbeing in the workplace.
A recent BetterUp survey revealed that 38% of people don’t trust their colleagues while a shocking 53% don’t look forward to working because of those very same team members.
And things get worse. Poor social interaction (be it at or outside work) is reportedly equal to smoking as many as 15 cigarettes every day or not exercising at all for our health.
Simply put, the more socially connected employees are to their coworkers (and that includes their boss), the more engaged, satisfied, and healthy they’ll be.
Camaraderie and collaboration make for a more productive workforce. But more importantly, having friends at work provides a support system that makes it easier for employees to endure tough times or solve various challenges.
So, with all of this in mind, what does a healthy human connection at work look like?
Examples of positive human connections in the workplace
There are lots of ways to promote human connection in your organization, be it remote, hybrid, or in-office. Some ideas include:
- Celebrating personal milestones
- Getting to know colleagues beyond their day job
- Giving new team members an onboarding buddy from day one
- Organizing lunch-and-learn sessions
- Launching a company-wide social intranet
- Setting up communities for different interests employees might have, like Workvivo Spaces
- Encouraging employees to show appreciation more often
- Pairing up team members to attend events or contests
- Organizing team-building activities (beyond annual getaways)
- Encouraging open and honest feedback sharing
- Supporting non-work projects that involve multiple team members
- Pairing up different team members for occasional lunch breaks or coffee chats
- Setting up a peer coaching program or mentorship opportunities
- Scheduling regular one-on-ones
- Throwing celebratory parties whenever you hit a new goal
- Having a dedicated channel for the fun talk
- Starting the week with a ritual like every employee sharing their biggest achievement front the past week
- Setting up game and movie nights (or whatever else makes your team happy)
- Involving everyone in birthday celebrations
- Getting your employees to regularly host their own whole-team or company-wide events
- Setting up Q&A sessions with managers, whether it’s a Workvivo post, video, or podcast
- Giving your team wellbeing breaks every month
How other companies are successfully improving human connection
One of the best ways to prepare for trialing organization-wide changes is to take inspiration from others. What are some other companies doing to promote human connection?
Geckoboard – Promoting community building
Geckoboard invests in its people by prioritizing every individual’s life and building a sense of community. It has company meet-ups online every month where every team goes through their work and gets an overview of business progress. It also organizes regular social events both online and in person, such as guided meditation sessions and cheese tastings.
Staffordshire University – Embracing open communication
Staffordshire University fixed the disconnection between their staff members by setting up an open communication policy that paved the way for two-way conversations, better connecting employees and boosting their engagement. They’re now using Workvivo to allow even their most junior employees to pitch in. For Staffordshire, Workvivo gives everyone a better chance to showcase their work, show recognition, and make meaningful connections.
Woodie’s – Connecting over achievements
Woodie’s also uses Workvivo as their core communications and recognition app. With it, the company has boosted communication scores from 57% in 2014 to 88% in 2020. Colleagues can now connect over personal moments like birthdays and their very own Woscars, an annual black-tie event that awards staff for great results.
CluneTech – Ensuring everyone can communicate with each other
How do you keep employees across eight different companies in 30 countries connected? CluneTech uses Workvivo to celebrate accomplishments, update employees on company values, and help them colleagues get to know each other. As a result, employee experience and retention increased by 30%.
Buffer – A strong work culture vision
Buffer is an equal opportunity employer, so they’ve made transparency one of the core company and team culture values. Pair this with two other key values (Act beyond yourself and Show gratitude) and you’ve got a healthy company culture that clearly outlines what you should expect from day one.
HubSpot – Allowing everyone to contribute
HubSpot prides itself on its absence of an inner circle. That means everyone, regardless of their role, is expected to pitch in with ideas and knowledge. They also support complete transparency to get the trust of both their employees and customers.
A+E Networks – Relying on employee resource groups
A+E Networks EMEA encourages every employee to connect by giving them online spaces to bond. Employee Resource Groups gather people with similar passions into groups like Wellbeing Champions, Green Team, or Family. And if someone joins the company but they don’t resonate with any of these ideas, the company stays open to building a new resource group.
Four steps to take to make human connection happen today
While the extensive list of ideas we shared earlier in this post will give you enough food for thought for the upcoming year, here are a couple of things you can do straight away.
Encourage open collaboration
One of the things all of the companies above have in common is how open they truly are to collaboration.
When people can come together and collaborate openly, it’s largely because they’re feeling supported at work. You can do that by simply providing a dedicated space for them to have casual conversations. This can be a dedicated channel or thread, or five minutes at the beginning of a meeting for team members to chat about non-work stuff.
But to really encourage people to get involved and start conversations on their own, you need to inspire them to be proactive. Help them organize team lunches, walks, coffee chats, game nights, or whatever they’d enjoy the most that can facilitate interactions without the pressure.
Felicia Shakiba, Founder of CPO Playbook Consultancy, is an advocate for this concept. She advises on creating a culture that values open and honest communication: “Encourage employees to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns freely. This can be facilitated through team meetings, one-on-one check-ins, and suggestion boxes, providing avenues for everyone to contribute and be heard.”
Hire people with compassion and empathy skills
A healthy team culture starts with the hires you make; a lot of candidates will have the right technical skills and experience you’re looking for. The differentiator needs to be having strong compassion and empathy skills that can help them build human connections with their coworkers.
To attract the right candidates, make sure the job description emphasizes strong social skills and emotional intelligence. You can include mentions of what you’re already doing at work to encourage team members to support each other, for example, or mention some relevant company values.
You’ll also want to adapt your interview process. Ask candidates to share examples of times they showed compassion and empathy in their previous roles, and try to determine how collaboration and teamwork feature in their career goals and priorities.
Plan to develop missing skills
Most people won’t have it all. Some might love to contribute to communities but could be shy at first. Other employees could be more extroverted but lose track of their goals while trying to keep up with everyone.
It’s your job to help them identify the skills they lack or should improve. Think of aspects like:
- What their approach to initiating conversations is like
- What would motivate them to actively share their results or praise others
- How open they are to accepting non-work chats and activities
- What difficulties do they have (if any) when it comes to active listening
- When they’d be more likely to jump in and offer help to a colleague
You’ll ultimately want to create the profile of every employee with their best and worst soft skills. Then, based on your ideal profile, prioritize the areas that need to be developed. Get your team members to practice new soft skills by facilitating work situations where they can use them.
For instance, if someone’s hesitant to share recognition, have them join a club. This way, they can start offering feedback, showing empathy, and sharing their projects in a smaller community first.
Have a space where people can come together and bond over hobbies
Creating a space where employees can bond over hobbies is a great way to boost morale, productivity, and teamwork in your organization.
Gemma Hislop, HR Manager at Skale, is a big believer in encouraging colleagues to take time out of their workday to catch up over a virtual coffee and discuss topics other than work.
“This strengthens relationships and leads to higher levels of employee engagement,” she says. “Holding a weekly ‘coffee roulette’, where people get matched up with someone from a different department, works really well at improving cross-functional collaboration across the company.
“Offering regular virtual team-building activities can also be a great way for employees to connect and bond.”
An employee experience and internal communication platform like Workvivo provides the complete package for managers looking to build more personal relations with their employees.
What to avoid when building better human connections
Darko Srebotnik, HR Specialist at Valcon, says you should first and foremost avoid forcing these connections: “Every person is different, and so is every team. Autonomy is important, so let teams decide how they will bond.
“I would also like to add that quality of time spent together is more important than quantity. I’ve seen teams that do exceptionally well meeting only once a week in the office, while some teams that work together all the time don’t do that great.”
Another common mistake is simply not fostering teamwork and collaboration. Felicia Shakiba emphasizes the role of encouraging this by promoting cross-functional projects, group problem-solving sessions, and team-building activities: “Encourage employees to work together, share knowledge, and support one another to achieve common goals. This promotes a sense of camaraderie and fosters meaningful connections.”
Many of the experts we talked to emphasized the idea of workplaces being built on the foundation of people and teams. Rachel Doherty, Director at Inspired Business Consultancy, says that while keeping costs low, margins strong, and productivity high are crucial for businesses, achieving that with a dysfunctional team or lack of employee engagement will be a perpetual challenge and an uphill climb.
“Simple ways to support engagement and maintain a strong culture include: truly knowing and living your values, optimizing two-way and cross-functional communication, and ensuring achievements, milestones, and contributions are properly acknowledged and rewarded,” she explains.
“You need to support the creation of company groups that add social value and enable employees to be active about issues they care about. This can be deeply rewarding and help forge strong connections internally, such as a Women in STEM, LGBT+, or Mental Health Champions.”
Lastly, Barbie Winterbottom, CHRO Founder and CEO at The Business of HR, emphasizes the importance of not making assumptions about an employee’s behavior and actions: “We tend to make assumptions based on our previous life and work experiences and what we have seen play out before. We only see the world through our lens. However, that doesn’t mean what we see or perceive is always accurate.
“Managers should remember that everyone is different and has their own set of life experiences, personality traits, and motivations. Always lead with curiosity, take time to ask questions, and lean in to hear their responses and gain an understanding. All of this is key to building connection.”
On a similar note, Barbie stresses you shouldn’t compare employees to avoid creating an impossible situation for everyone: “Managers might be tempted to only see and showcase the highlight reel of other people’s lives and work results. Instead, find ways to help employees show up as their authentic selves. We all can make a meaningful impact. So support your team members as they display their various ways to make a statement.”
Where to start?
Cultivating human connection at work should be the foundation of your employee experience and internal communications plan. Use the tips in this post to prepare an actionable process that allows every employee to express themselves and bring their own touch to an open, two-way collaboration system.
Ready to connect your people like never before? Book your Workvivo demo today.