Improving Retention: 7 Ways To Build Better Social Connections at Work

7 min read
Jul 4, 2022

employee engagement | social connection | team | culture | TINYpulse

If there is one thing we have learned from the last few years, it’s that nothing is permanent. The ever-evolving nature of the world in which we live touches all areas of life, and our professional lives are no different. The Great Resignation has affected everyone, whether we realize it or not. The resulting questions employers are asking themselves are these: How do we encourage employees to stay? And how do we keep employees happy and engaged in the work we do? 

The Importance of Social Connection in the Workplace

Research shows that workers who are socially disconnected from the workplace are more likely to leave their jobs in search of something else. Conversely, employees who are socially satisfied with their workplace are far more likely to stick around.

According to The State of Employee Engagement report Q1 2022 by TINYpulse by Limeade, those who felt as if their social needs were not being met are 91% more likely to quit their job.



Source: State of Employee Engagement Q1 2022, TINYpulse by Limeade

This is a huge issue and one that needs to be addressed to ensure employee longevity and subsequent continuity and connectivity in your business. Employee satisfaction is something that employers are constantly working to improve, and it turns out that one of the biggest factors affecting satisfaction is how connected they feel to those around them. Not only are social connections important to employee retention, but they can also affect how hard an employee works and the quality of their work. This begs the question: How big of a problem is this? Well, it’s a significant one. 

Employees’ Desired Connections vs Experienced Connections 

On average, most employees are not happy with the social connections they are experiencing at work. There is a significant divide between the average level of experienced connection vs their desired level of connection. 



Source: State of Employee Engagement Q1 2022, TINYpulse by Limeade

This is a problem that can be combated, however, with a little bit of effort and forethought. While the amount of social connections desired by employees changes with age (older employees are slightly more likely to need additional social interaction) and personality, it is important to take all of this into account as you spearhead some initiatives to increase cultural and social connections among your employees. Consider providing your employees with a survey to assess their needs with regard to this issue. As a more general plan moving forward, we have procured some pertinent information for you that should be helpful. 

How to Increase Social Connections in the Workplace

We did some research to assess the various ways employees would like to see connections improve in their place of employment. This information is valuable in order to take action. When asked about engagement activities, many employees indicated they would like to see more of the following in their place of employment:

1) Employee recognition programs

Recognizing employees goes a long way toward showing respect and appreciation for their hard work. Some examples that have worked well for various businesses include the following:

  • Weekly shoutouts on social media
  • Years of service awards
  • Employee of the month
  • Verbal encouragement for a job well done
  • Software integrations on Microsoft TEAMS or Slack

2) Employee wellness programs

Many employees are on some sort of health journey already, and it looks as though they would like to see support, incentive, and community in this area in their place of employment. Consider implementing any of these ideas:

  • Weight loss competitions
  • Stress management education
  • Wellness assessments
  • Stop smoking initiatives
  • Mental health support  
  • Employee experience software platforms

3) Supervisor support

Support from a boss is important to make employees feel connected to the people around them and to the company as a whole. The point of connections in the workplace is to foster a sense of loyalty to the company, and this is best enhanced by a positive supervisor-to-employee relationship. Employees are looking to their supervisor to do the following:

  • Give them autonomy in their tasks
  • Send messages of support throughout the week
  • Provide feedback
  • Maintain consistent communication by responding to emails and phone calls promptly

4) Team-building

Employees are expressing the need for team-building activities with their co-workers. While this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it is becoming increasingly clear that employees not only are desirous of building relationships, they are interested in building rapport with shared experiences. Consider dividing up groups by division and make sure to not separate the managers from their employees. Here are some simple examples of things you can do together to help build up your team:

  • Plan a team luncheon (phone-free). Please keep it simple with a corporately sponsored lunch where the phones are kept in a basket and team members are forced to communicate with each other.
  • Play a game. Take some time to play a game that allows interaction and helps the team members get to know more about each other. Two truths a lie and  Tabletopics (or similar cards) are two great ways to get people talking about more than just work

5) More in-person interactions with co-workers

The digital era has brought with it a lot of conveniences, but we have lost some of the face-to-face interaction that employees need. Try a few tactics to increase interactions with and between employees:

  • Occasionally pop into an employee or co-worker’s office instead of sending an email to go over a few things. It will take up a few more minutes of time, but it may go a long way toward keeping good employees around for the long haul. 
  • Schedule video calls more often than telephone calls. 
  • Schedule in-person meetings instead of conference calls when the opportunity and time present themselves. 

6) Social events

The office Christmas party is a staple and often provides fodder for conversation and laughter all year. Couple that with a few more events, and employees will have additional shared experiences, creating bonds that in turn will perpetuate loyalty to co-workers and, by extension, to the company. Consider a couple of the following events to your yearly calendar:

  • Fourth of July Barbeque
  • Memorial Day Party 
  • Back-to-School Event (invite whole families and have back-to-school type games available)
  • New Year’s Eve party
  • Procure tickets to a local baseball game
  • Draw names and take the winners to a concert

7) DEI initiatives 

DEI initiatives are essential in unifying the company and ensuring no one feels slighted or left out. It also helps everyone to see the corporate world from the perspective of others, which is always helpful in creating a community. Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a round table resource group where employees can talk freely and ask questions about hard topics
  • Mentorship programs
  • Community outreach to underprivileged youth

What About Remote Work Arrangements? Does a 100% In-Person Work Affect Social Engagement?

Everyone has a different opinion about this, and it’s even been a source of contention and debate in some circles. What we are finding, however, is that the perceived sense of connection in the workplace matters far more than what an expert, or a person in a different work environment, thinks about it. It turns out most employees surveyed indicated that in-person or hybrid work arrangements were more conducive to fostering social connections than 100% remote work arrangements.  



Source: State of Employee Engagement Q1 2022, TINYpulse by Limeade

The takeaway here is that, in general, to feel connected to your team, you have to have the time, space, and ability to connect to the team. While remote workers can do things to stay connected, there seems to be a piece of that connection that cannot be replaced with consistent person-to-person interaction.

Interestingly, remote workers indicated they felt just as connected as in-person workers. The reasons for this could be multi-tiered, or simply the age-old truth: you don’t know what you don’t have. There is also a possibility that remote workers’ personalities lend themselves to needing less social interaction to still feel connected versus those who choose 100% in-person work environments. 

In any case, the verdict is in on one important point: social interactions matter and affect employee satisfaction, connectivity to their team, and longevity in the company. 

In Conclusion

The Great Resignation, along with the nationwide labor shortage, has caused employers to assess how they can keep good employees around for the long haul. Training new employees, or continually increasing salaries to convince good employees to stay, are both costly endeavors that don’t always yield positive results.

TINYpulse by Limeade research shows that employees who feel socially and culturally connected at work are more likely to be satisfied in their place of employment and less likely to look for another job. We found that the path toward increasing engagement on all fronts in the workplace is multi-tiered and varies by age (with older people slightly more desirous of increased social interaction at work) and with personality differences. By implementing some new programs, and by continually assessing how connected your employees feel to the workplace and their co-workers, you can increase employee happiness, loyalty, and longevity with your company. 

These small changes, along with the forethought and planning space to continually improve in this area, will help keep your business stable in a world where many businesses are experiencing the pinch and inconvenience of employees moving on to other career opportunities. 

We all desire social connections in all areas of our lives, and the workplace is no different - it is well worth the time and money to survey employees and implement programs that keep your business running seamlessly.

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