As people, we are always searching for a sense of belonging and common ground. So, what better place than the workplace to find it?
Most of us spend most of our days at the office, on a desk, either alone of between others in an open office plan. We spend more time sitting with coworkers than we do with friends and family, making it a prime location for fulfilling our emotional needs. However, we should also consider that our coworkers are in need of that feeling and comfort as well.
When we belong, we feel more cheerful, energetic and ambitious. According to EY, an international professional services firm, “in the context of work, research shows that when people feel like they belong, they are more productive, motivated and engaged as well as 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their full, innovative potential.”
This shows just how important it is to connect at the office, not just for our sakes but for our coworkers and employees.
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Connecting with coworkers, even getting personal with them, provides multiple different benefits such as reducing stress, increasing support both in and outside of the office and reveals skills and interests that may prove useful. These are aside the fact that the workplace will most likely be more productive and comfortable as well.
So, how do we start connecting at work?
One of the very first steps in helping coworkers, and yourself, feel welcome and belong is the “check-in.”
It may feel silly or unimportant compared to other classic HR steps such as Employee of the Month, but a simple “Hi” or “What’s up/How are you” can truly change the mood of an office.
According to EY’s Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer, Karyn Twaronite on Harvard Business Review, there is an art to the “check-in.”
“Across EY, we’ve spent a lot of time considering the importance of check-ins with our people —as a way to build relationships regularly, as well as to provide support after significant news or events. Of course, people have different preferences about how they connect with each other at work. While some people may want to sit and talk, some may prefer a digital chat and others may not be open to engaging at all. Learning how to engage with employees in a way that they feel comfortable is key to creating a sense of community.”
In the article, she mentions 5 tips on how to connect with the power of the check in.
Seize the small opportunities to connect
“Try to establish connections with your colleagues that communicate that you value, understand, and care about them. Be present, curious, and seize small daily opportunities to connect authentically.”
Check bias at the door
“Check-ins are a time to listen to another person’s perspectives, not to debate or persuade. If someone shares something that you don’t understand or agree with, you might consider acknowledging their point of view or asking them to tell you more. You may be pleasantly surprised by their response.”
Assume positive intent
“Start any conversation with your colleagues believing that those talking or listening mean well, especially when it comes to difficult issues. Sometimes you might fumble through these topics, but assuming positive intent will help you pause, ask clarifying questions, and connect in a more meaningful way.”
It’s OK to be vulnerable
“Seek feedback from your colleagues, especially those who are junior to you. Demonstrate your trust in them through the way you communicate and act on their feedback. For example, expressing vulnerability by acknowledging their views and talking openly about challenges you’re facing humanizes the relationship you have with your peers and direct reports.”
Be consistent and accountable
“Be transparent and model consistent, inclusive behavior, even under pressure or during difficult conversations. Expect, reinforce, and reward the accountability of others.”
A simple Hi, Hello and how are you packs a powerful punch for something that may seem small, but don’t underestimate how a small gesture can brighten a person’s day and improve their feelings toward the workplace.
Otherwise, there are several other things you can do to connect while at the office.
Connect by giving advice or sharing information generously, have lunch together and talk about different topics outside of work, genuinely listen to their problems and issues, and random acts of kindness like small chocolates or snacks, or even a bag of chips are all small but helpful ways to connect with people around you.