How to Bond With Your Coworkers
Seventeen percent of United States employees worked from home five or more days each week before the pandemic. But that quickly jumped to 44% as COVID-19 forced countless businesses to close their offices.
More and more teams are returning to in-house work as restrictions ease across the country, but Gartner’s research shows that more than 40% of employees are likely to keep working from home at least some of the time after the pandemic ends.
It can be more challenging for scattered employees to get to know one another, collaborate on tasks, and feel like part of a cohesive team. But even in-house workforces can be fractured and fail to function together well with poor management.
Why Is It Important For Teams to Bond?
Here are just a few benefits of building close bonds with coworkers:
- Collaborating with coworkers makes 56% of employees more satisfied.
- Companies that promote collaborative working are five times as likely to perform highly.
- Businesses with efficient communication processes are 4.5x more likely to keep the best workers.
- According to McKinsey, enhancing communication and collaboration via social technologies can boost productivity by 20 to 25%.
The benefits are clear. But what are the most effective ways to bond with coworkers and start reaping these rewards?
Seven Effective Ways for Teams to Bond
1. Leverage Tailored Problem-Solving Games to Improve Team Dynamics
Some team-building exercises can be dry, tedious, and flat-out frustrating for employees. They may push certain people too far outside their comfort zone and create an uncomfortable situation they can’t wait to escape.
That could leave a bad taste in their mouth and prompt them to look for a job where they won’t be forced into poorly devised exercises.
But you can organize team-building exercises that cater to different personalities within a group and bring coworkers closer. An essential part of this process is to create activities based on ideas from the employees themselves.
Start small. Ask colleagues to suggest activities they DON’T want to (or can’t) do, such as camping outdoors overnight or taking part in sports. By asking up front, you can quickly find out which areas to avoid.
Then invite workers to share ideas they DO want to try or would at least be willing to consider. Possible suggestions include:
- Taking part in an online escape room
- Playing online bingo
- Creating a book club (virtual or in-person)
- Forming a company bowling team
Be open to all suggestions and only implement ideas that people are happy to try. Don’t make participation mandatory either — this could put employees off and make them feel devalued.
2. Cultivate Non-Work Conversations Over Real Lunch Breaks
It’s easy for employees to become bogged down by work during busy periods. They may be swamped and barely speak to anyone about non-work topics all day, let alone have time for a coffee break with a friend.
That’s understandable when a crucial deadline looms. But workers need space to breathe and connect with coworkers even on hectic days.
Why? So they can vent frustrations they may have about a task or a client. So they can take their mind off work for a few minutes and laugh. So they can return to their desk feeling refreshed and ready to get back to work with a sense of enthusiasm that hours of relentless concentration can dull.
Make time to take a lunch break every day, whether you’re in the office or working remotely. More than 80% of employees who take daily lunch breaks report having a “strong desire” to play an active part in the business. They also show higher job satisfaction and intent to stay with their current employer.
In-house workers may schedule lunch breaks together and take a walk or play card/board games while they eat. Remote workers can chat via instant messaging, video calls, or play online games instead. And hybrid teams may try a combination of both.
3. Find a Dedicated Space to Chat With Colleagues
Sending emails back and forth can be a time-consuming distraction as conversations between employees grow. It’s easy to lose track of who said what, when, and why. You can waste valuable minutes scrolling through threads trying to find a single sentence or attachment.
That’s why it’s essential to create a dedicated space where you can interact with coworkers, share ideas, and informally discuss non-work matters. However, rules of proper conduct must still be in place to prevent employees from causing potential offense or sharing sensitive information.
But a shared communication tool enables teams to interact instantly in real-time, whether they’re chatting about what movies they watched at the weekend or asking for advice on a particular task.
4. Host Trivia Nights to Inspire Healthy Competition and Create New Relationships
Trivia nights exploded in 2020. Video chat platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Skype empowered families, friends, and coworkers to stay connected while answering questions. It was a simple but effective way to maintain bonds regardless of distance.
Teams can continue to take part in regular trivia nights together to nurture relationships, whether at a local bar or video chat. You might take part as individuals with one person acting as the quizmaster, or you could work in small teams.
Creating custom quizzes is a fantastic way to appeal to disparate personalities and areas of knowledge. For example, one round could suit tech-lovers with questions on gadgets and software. Another might focus on movies, or TV, or music. There are so many possibilities for teams of all sizes across all sectors.
5. Empathize With Coworkers and Offer a Friendly Shoulder to Cry On
Everyone has their capabilities and strengths at work. Some struggle with specific tasks more than others, even if they’re more than competent enough to handle them with aplomb. But employees should be willing to listen to coworkers when they’re having a tough day and recognize that someone might not find a task or new way of working as easy as they do.
Some workers might struggle to open up and share when they’re struggling. So try to be aware of a change in communication habits, their tone, or their availability. Teams with solid bonds should find it easier to identify when colleagues need help of any kind — another powerful incentive to foster tighter bonds.
6. Arrange in-Person Events (When Safe or Practical)
Face-to-face meetups are a fantastic opportunity for workers to bond outside of a messaging app or emails. They can hang out at a coffee house, grab a bite to eat at a restaurant, go on a long walk, or almost anything else.
Even a brief meet-up reminds employees that the people they work with five days each week are as real as they are.
It might not always be practical to arrange in-person events, sadly, especially if teams are scattered across the country or internationally. But in-person events can create an ideal situation to bond in a social setting without the pressure of work or the usual office setting. Online games and quizzes are best in this case.
Again, though, don’t force employees to participate in bonding activities. Incentivize them to take part by making everyone feel welcome and valued instead.
7. Foster Transparent Communication Between Employees and Management to Build Trust
Employees should have good, honest relationships with managers. There should be no sense of “us versus them” — everyone should function as part of a unified team in which you all play an important role.
The TINYpulse toolset empowers managers to improve communication with employees and develop a better understanding of their teams. Interns, line managers, department heads, C-suite execs, and more can all stay in the loop for full transparency. This accountability helps to inspire trust and enhances company-wide bonds.
Bonding with coworkers might not be easy for some teams, but the seven ideas covered above can make it simpler. Effective team-building practices, an empathetic company culture, and a dedicated space for communication can all help employees build lasting bonds that contribute to a more robust workforce overall.
Managers who gain a deeper insight into the employee experience across remote, in-house, or hybrid teams can build a better situation for everyone. They might choose to introduce new bonding exercises or communication practices that improve productivity, higher worker satisfaction, and lower staff turnover.
TINYpulse provides management teams with the tools they need to build stronger relationships with employees and make data-driven decisions on improving their company culture.
Managers can collect continuous feedback from employees to identify how they feel and understand what actions to take based on honest responses. This feedback is also an effective way to understand why employees choose to stay with a business and why others decide to leave.