How much time do you spend at work? Most of us spend at least 5 days a week in an office, on a site, shop or other working space. On average, that adds up to 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime! That is about a third of your lifetime.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that our colleagues play a key role in our lives. Seeing that we interact with people at work for about a third of our lives, how can we cultivate more nourishing, engaging, mutually enjoyable relationships?
Working better together
- Communicate openly and honestly
Communication can be tricky. Since we all come from different cultures, backgrounds and even language groups, it’s useful to remember that we don’t always come across as clearly as we would like. To help create the best opportunity for creative communication, it always helps to assume the best from others. If you think someone said something that offended you, ask for clarification. A lot of meaning can be lost in language, so you might find that what you thought someone said may not be what they actually meant.
- Share appreciation & praise
We all can be hard on ourselves. If all you hear from your colleagues is about what you need to change and improve, it can leave you feeling drained at the end of the day. See if you can cultivate a culture of praise at work. One simple way to do this is to create random “Shout-out” group-emails where, for example, you commend a colleague for a job well-done. You can also host more regular meetings where you have the opportunity to share appreciation & praise more formally.
- Listen twice, speak once
One of the best ways to show colleagues that you’re listening is to repeat back what you hear: “So what I’m hearing you say is….is that correct?” Not only does this help your colleagues feel heard, but they also have an opportunity to clarify their intention and minimise confusion.
- Make people feel like people, not machines
When work gets busy and meetings tend to flow into each other, it’s easy for relationships to become ‘all work and no play’. In fact, when someone shares their personal lives, you may even find yourself feeling impatient. It may be helpful to create down-time sessions with colleagues where you have the opportunity to connect on a more personal level. Building stronger connections with your colleagues will add meaning, satisfaction and joy to your day-to-day tasks.
The challenges of remote-work
With the coming of Covid many organisations switched to remote working options. Although this has brought certain benefits, one of the biggest losses is physical interaction with your colleagues. When we’re in a physical space together we can gradually build relationship with chit-chat, grabbing lunch together, or in the small-talk after a meeting. Now, with everyone working via video-calls, it can be hard to find those little pockets of human interaction, without scheduling a meeting.
To overcome this barrier, we need to be more intentional with our working relationships. Here are some ideas you can try out, or that you can suggest to your colleagues:
- Create a regular virtual lunch/drinks opportunity. During these online events try to avoid talking about work; rather sharing experiences of your personal lives: family, friends and hobbies.
- Schedule 1-to-1 chit-chats. Although online group socials can be fun, unlike physical events, it’s not possible for everyone to mingle at the same time. This usually leads to some people dominating the air-time and leaving others just listening. Why not arrange a regular catch-up with a colleague, either via phone or video-call, where you both share ideas about your own hobbies, challenges, and dreams? Even a quick chat to catch up about weekend activities can help you reconnect to your work-mates. You may even discover things about them that you didn’t know before.
- Create a dedicated social share channel that incudes your workmates: If you already use Slack, or other chat-platforms, why not create a channel that is dedicated to personal stories, random events, jokes, favourite songs, or photos of your kids? By opening up about this part of life, you get to peek into the worlds of others, and you’ll immediately feel closer to them as well.
Together, while apart
Now, more than ever, we all feel the sting of isolation as we each work in our own little bubbles. Why not take the initiative at your workplace to build bridges across the divide? Not only will it help you work better together, but you will also help create a warm, inviting and caring culture, that will benefit you and those around you.
Don’t know what to say at your next work social? Why not ask your colleagues to download the conversation starter app, or this party1s app? It’s a fun way to get to know each other, without having to force awkward small-talk conversations.