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5 Meaningful Ways to Help Employees Build Social Connections at Work

During the height of the pandemic, when many companies were forced to shift to remote working arrangements, there were countless studies published about the impacts of social isolation—whether on productivity, company culture, or individuals themselves. 

But even after “social distancing” left the vernacular and organizations returned to the office or created remote and hybrid models, employees are still dealing with a loneliness epidemic. According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) 2023 Work in America Survey, over a quarter of all employees still report intense feelings of social disconnection or isolation from colleagues in the workplace.

Of course, this degree of social isolation at work wasn’t always the case. So what changed, and why have social ties become more crucial than ever before, especially as we head into the highly-anticipated fall season?

Why Are Social Connections So Important?

Prior to 2020, research on social connectedness in the workplace was few and far between—some studies even framed employee camaraderie as an incentive rather than a necessity. 

Having strong social bonds in the workplace isn’t a new phenomenon and has always been essential for fostering engagement and morale. However, employees today find it more difficult to form and cultivate connections in the workplace—and this is especially true for young employees navigating the post-pandemic workforce for the first time. 

But it isn’t for lack of social skills.

Whether teams are remote, hybrid, or fully in-person, they often face the same four challenges:

  1. Company culture isn’t a priority.
  2. There aren’t enough opportunities for social engagement.
  3. Employees are burned out.
  4. Social wellbeing is not incentivized.

And the results are what one might expect…

 

When employers address these needs in the workplace, it can go a long way toward benefiting the health and wellbeing of employees and reaching organizational benchmarks. That’s why it’s imperative to fold extracurricular activities and team-building opportunities into your larger wellbeing strategy.

For example, creating opportunities for social connectedness between employees can lead to:

  • Healthier lifestyle choices inside and outside the workplace
  • Long-lasting and reoccurring engagement and job satisfaction
  • Drastic reduction in work-related stress, burnout, and social isolation
  • Overall increase in retention and decrease in turnover

Now that we understand why social connectedness is so crucial for helping employees thrive at work, let’s look at a few ways employers can create worthwhile social opportunities for workforces:

Break Down Barriers

The first step toward encouraging social connection in the workplace is creating an inclusive environment that welcomes authenticity and respect.

Employers should not only be open to diverse perspectives and experiences—they should drive them to create a culture of mutual respect. Doing so can break down barriers in communication and lay the foundation for effective understanding and meaningful connections across all levels of the organization.

For example, with September being Hispanic Heritage Month, now is a great time to align programming to celebrate the culture, experiences, and accomplishments of Hispanic/Latinx employees.

Encourage Regular Interactions

The next step is to encourage interactions in the workplace by modeling the behavior and social skills you wish to see. 

Maintaining a friendly, approachable demeanor can set the tone for the whole work environment. For example, managers can lead by example by actively recognizing employee achievements and hard work. Not only will this improve morale, but it will encourage other employees to do the same for each other, creating a supportive environment for everyone.

Make Run-of-the-Mill Meetings Fun

You can also look for ways to make day-to-day operations more engaging by creating opportunities for fun and lighthearted social interactions. 

Whether your workforce is in-person or virtual, encourage managers and colleagues to leave time at the beginning or end of meetings to check in with each other’s personal lives. Asking about weekend plans or discussing the latest movies or TV shows are a few easy ways to break up the work day, bond on a human level, and foster more meaningful social connections.

Host Social Events

Going a step further, organizing non-work-related events during or outside of regular business hours is an incredibly effective way for teams to bond outside of the typical workday.

With fall just around the corner, hosting seasonal outings like harvest festivals, pumpkin carving contests, or apple orchard visits are effective ways to attract interest and get employees excited about the change of seasons. These types of social activities are crucial for employees to share experiences and form bonds that have the potential to forge lasting relationships. 

Organize Team-Building Activities

Facilitating team-building activities is not only a great way to build social connections and rapport—it’s also an incredibly effective stress reliever. While game-oriented activities aren’t for everyone, there are plenty of ways to make them more engaging for those who still want social interaction opportunities.

At WellRight, we specialize in developing holistic wellness programs tailored to transforming organizations into communities. Contact one of our specialists to learn more about how we can help you nurture the social wellbeing of your workforce.

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