Is THIS the surprising new business currency?

Is THIS the surprising new business currency?

Encouraging workplace friendships and reversing social isolation ‘ fostering greater connection ‘ is the key to business survival post-pandemic 

People who have a strong network of friends in the workplace are not only more likely to be happier and healthier, but also seven times as likely to be engaged in their job ‘ according to Marissa King, author of ‘Social Chemistry: Decoding the Patterns of Human Connection’. What’s more, employees who report having friends at work and a shared sense of purpose have higher levels of productivity, retention and job satisfaction than those who don’t. As the demand for WFH and hybrid-working arrangements reaches record highs, employers ‘ now more than ever ‘ need to think of creative ways to promote connection. 

It’s not a new concept that humans are social animals. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle first reported that the energy and trust we build from social interactions are the key to human happiness. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs includes a sense of belonging as a major need that motivates human behaviour ‘ just like food, shelter and safety.

Professor Matthew Lieberman’s studies report that our desire to connect is as fundamental to us as food and water; we suffer when our social bonds are threatened or severed.

This was never more apparent than when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and our workplace connections were tested to the limit. Time magazine called those days ‘the world’s largest work from home experiment’. Our social bonds and connections with our friends, family and colleagues were disrupted. It’s no wonder, therefore, that so many people’s mental health suffered during the lockdowns and throughout numerous other social restrictions. 

The Pew Research Centre states that one in three employees feel less connected to their colleagues now than before the pandemic. Conversely, the ONS reported that worker-led demand for hybrid arrangements has skyrocketed to 85% (Business and individual attitudes towards the future of homeworking, UK: April to May 2021). At a time when employees are reporting feeling isolated from their colleagues and yet are actively seeking to work from home, it is now essential that businesses learn how to maximise the ‘currency of connection’. 

Research by Gallup shows that people with strong friendships at work are less likely to be actively looking for new job opportunities. Further research carried out on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) states that 84% of those working with a shared sense of purpose were far more likely to feel happier and more engaged in their work. 

If it is understood that positive relationships are the crucial components in building a productive and efficient workplace, then it follows that, as an employer, you need to double down your efforts to foster connections ‘ thus gaining a competitive advantage.

Firstly, provide your staff with dedicated time to meet for a virtual or face-to-face coffee with their colleagues on a regular basis. Make this an integral part of your culture ‘ especially if working virtually. Humans bond over food, so provide a space for your team to eat, socialise and spend time with their colleagues at work. 

Secondly, take advantage of technology. Even with virtual and hybrid working, your people can get the same sense of connection by logging into the likes of Teams or Zoom for the day ‘ giving the sense of co-working but from afar.

Thirdly, help people connect by putting on team events, trivia quizzes, book clubs, team sports or fun days out, such as the increasingly popular escape rooms situated across the UK.

Finally, companies with a strong vision and a shared sense of purpose experience significantly more gains, so promote the celebration of team and company-wide wins ‘ encouraging social interactions alongside this. 

It is evident that those employers who support social connections in the workplace and help employees form strong relationships with one another benefit from healthier, happier and more motivated employees. Is it time that businesses put more focus on investing in the increasingly important currency that is connection to win success for themselves?

Natalie Lewis
Natalie Lewis

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