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5 Ways to Connect with Your Coworkers (and Take Care of Yourself, Too!)

By November 12, 20155 Comments


As you stare at your to do list for the day, you start to feel that familiar pinch — you have a lot to do, and not a lot of time to do it in. And because you know how valuable personal ecology is, you also want to make sure you get home to spend time with your family and friends.

Just as you start in on all your tasks for the day, your coworker drops by, eager to chat about the crazy thing that happened on Empire last night. You know you have to get started on your work if you’re going to get everything done by 5, but you also have a lot of feelings about the Lyon family’s latest antics.

Should you: A. let your coworker know you can’t talk right now, or B. talk your coworker’s ear off about Cookie’s fabulous but impractical pantsuits?

As part of its 21 Day Self-Care Challenge last month, Move to End Violence made a strong case for letting your Empire fan flag fly. A quick chat with a coworker could actually have huge benefits, to both your organization and your own individual wellness.

In an article for Fast Company, Lisa Evans shares science-based data on why connecting with coworkers is so important:

One such study of 25,000 call center agents demonstrates this clearly. In the experiment, employees were divided into two groups—one who took staggered breaks alone, and another who took breaks with their coworkers. Those who had an opportunity for 15 minutes to chat and socialize with coworkers showed a 20% increase in performance.

Connection isn’t just about productivity, however. As social creatures, humans can get huge physiological benefits from face-to-face interactions (yes, even introverts!). When people socialize at work, they experience increased creativity and overall higher levels of happiness.

How do you manage those important personal connections with doing actual, you know, work? We here are Rockwood always try to put relationships before our work, so we’ve gotten pretty good at finding a balance. We took some time to brainstorm specific ways we connect with each other that are quick and easy:

  1. Eat lunch with others. Around lunchtime in our office, you’ll find most of the Rockwood staff together around the lunch table. We take a break from our desks, leave talk about work alone, and enjoy a meal together almost every day. We also periodically organize staff potlucks to break bread together and celebrate our work. If your office doesn’t usually eat together (or if your office is virtual), try asking one or two people to have lunch or coordinating a shared meal on a Friday.
  2. Initiate spontaneous contact. Because of our emphasis on collaboration and partnership, we have a ton of meetings here at Rockwood. But we still try to make time to check in personally with our coworkers, just to see how they’re doing. Some of us do a short walk around the office in the mornings, while others might drop by a desk or two throughout the week. The easiest way to work this into your schedule is set reminders for breaks throughout the day, so not only will you be connecting with other people at your organization, but you’ll also be harnessing the power of breaks.
  3. Gratitude by email. It might seem less effective or less efficient than saying something in person, but offering appreciations via email is a great a way to connect. We often send short emails thanking people for the work they did for us, or sharing something that reminded us of them. It doesn’t have to be too in-depth or specific; just letting someone know you enjoy working with them can make a huge difference in both your and their days. You could even combine this with number one above and ask them to go out for lunch sometime!
  4. Leave a little something for others. Every day, our Director of Finance & Operations writes a quote on a Post-It and sticks it on the coffeemaker for people to be inspired as they pour their morning coffee. Bringing in a special treat, writing a little note, or leaving a funny or inspiring image where everyone will see it is an easy way to bring a little joy and connection to your office.
  5. Integrate connection into meetings. Rockwood meetings almost always start with a quick personal check-in, whether it’s just letting people know what we’re working on or something more quirky like asking everyone what their favorite flavor of ice cream is. For smaller meetings, try starting with a quick “how are you doing?”. For larger or longer meetings, consider adding movement, meditation, or something like laughter yoga to the agenda for a way to connect that’s fun and energizing.

Bonus: If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of connecting with coworkers, check out these 8 TED Talks on collaboration.

How do you connect with the people you work with? Share in the comments!