After the COVID-19 pandemic triggered the new mode of “work from anywhere,” several employees felt less connected to their co-workers. Employee disconnection is a key driver of voluntary turnover as workers who feel lonely and socially disconnected from the workplace are more prone to quit.
A 2020 report by Cigna found lonely and socially disconnected employees have a higher risk of lower productivity, turnover, lower work quality, and more missed days at work. However, employees who feel socially satisfied with their workplace tend to stick around.
Encouraging social connections at work is important. It affects employees’ mental health, zeal to work, and work quality. Additionally, it’s easier to retain socially connected workers.
But there’s a problem. By focusing on employee engagement alone, some companies become distracted from what matters more – the quality of work. Research shows organisational leaders and employees relate to engagement through their work quality. This means by prioritising great work, your company can see better results than focusing on engagement alone, as this 2022 Global Culture Report by O.C. Tanner found.
Does it mean you shouldn’t work to improve employee engagement and build social connections at the workplace? Definitely not!
You should take the necessary steps to help your employees feel more socially connected with their workplace but not forget the importance of producing great work.
Not sure how you can increase social connections at work for your employees? Here are the top three ways that can help.
1. Employee Recognition Programs
Such programs effectively show appreciation and respect for the hard work your employees put in. If you already have such a program in your company, you can consider ways to improve it. If you don’t have such a program yet, you should start one right away.
Some employee recognition programs that have worked well for different businesses include:
- “Years of Service” awards
- “Employee of the month” award
- Weekly shoutouts on social media
- Virtual recognition via team meets on Slack or Microsoft Teams
- Hosting employee appreciation events, such as taking a department delivering good work consistently on a fun outing for the day or organising a surprise celebration
- Setting up an employee recognition wall or board where everyone can share their messages of appreciation for their peers
2. Team Building Activities
These days, employees aren’t interested in just building relationships with their co-workers. Instead, they desire to have shared experiences that help them build a strong bond with their colleagues. You can organise team-building activities department-wise to encourage employee engagement and social connections at work.
However, when forming teams for team-building activities, ensure not to separate the managers from their employees, or else, the essence of these activities will be lost.
Some team-building activities worth considering are:
- Play games (like card games, Two Truths and a Lie, etc.) that get people to interact with each and talk about more than just work
- Have a phone-free team lunch sponsored by the company where team members can’t help but communicate with each other
- Host office debates that improve employees’ communication and help them understand how handling differences in opinion and disagreements are vital to a seamless and functional office environment with high employee engagement
3. Employee Wellness Programs
Several of your employees may already be on some form of health journey. However, you can offer incentives, support, and access to relevant resources to encourage them to continue the journey. Those who are yet to focus on their health could also get started with such support and incentives.
You may even help create a community of fitness-conscious people at the workplace to improve social connections and pave the way to a fitter workforce that’s more engaged, happier, and more productive.
Some employee wellness ideas worth implementing could be:
- Stress management education
- Weight loss competitions
- Periodic health check-ups and assessments in the office
- Mental health support
- Initiatives for smokers like “Stub the Cigarette” or “Stop Smoking”
Employee recognition programs, team-building activities, and employee wellness programs help build better social connections and employee engagement. You can also encourage a positive supervisor-to-employee relationship, host DEI initiatives and social events, and encourage more in-person interactions (instead of sending emails or scheduling video calls) to help employees feel culturally and socially connected at work.
And when that happens, it will become easier for you to retain good employees for the long haul.
What other ways do you think can help employees enjoy increased social interactions at work and feel more engaged?