Mindful Ways to Encourage Connection in the Workplace

Relationships are an important pillar to mental health. Learn how to improve your work day with these tips for connecting with colleagues.
Insight Timer is the top free meditation app on iOS and Android.
Insight Timer is the top free meditation app on iOS and Android.

Research tells us those with strong social connections enjoy greater physical health, live longer, and maintain cognitive clarity further into old age. The health benefits of a robust social network also have a positive effect on our productivity at the office. A socially supportive workplace can have as much influence on wellness as eating, sleeping and exercising.

Adults working full time often spend more of each day with their colleagues than with family or friends, making interpersonal relationships at the office an important part of general health. Learn how to support social connection in the workplace, even if your team is working remotely. 

relationships and mental health

Why Employee Connections Matter

When we say people are socially connected, we generally mean they are more than just networked, but enjoy relationships which offer behavioral, cognitive or emotional support. This multi-layer support system has the following benefits:

Increased Job Satisfaction

Employees who feel connected to their coworkers report enjoying their jobs much more. Of those who say they love their jobs, most list liking the people they work with as the number one reason why.

Conversely, those who leave their jobs more frequently cite negative relationships with bosses or co-workers — not the company — as the reason why.

Improved Creativity & Engagement

Employees with in-office social connections are more likely to be creative and engaged in their work. New ideas frequently stem from casual conversation around the water cooler, and not in meetings or in isolation. 

Stress Reduction

Supportive work relationships are key for building employee resilience and protection from overwhelming stress. Those who feel appreciated and acknowledged are better able to cope with increased demands. 

Mindful Means of Supporting Social Connections

No employee wellness program is complete without an eye on how to foster better interpersonal connections. Feelings of loneliness directly contribute to poor health, disengagement and loss of productivity. Think about team-building and employee wellness as one:

Create Space for Socialization

A comfortable, physical space for socialization offers staff a place to unwind and socialize with others. Consider establishing a resting room or social space where staff can gather without distracting their coworkers. 

Encourage Mindful Listening

Employees who feel heard feel better connected. During meetings, encourage those who don’t normally contribute to speak up. Solicit input and feedback from introverts either one on one, or via another form of communication. 

Build Cross-Department Relationships

Find ways to introduce people from departments who don’t normally cross paths. When scheduling wellness activities, team building or celebrations, place diverse groups together. McKinsey cites network diversity as a competitive advantage and growth enabler for both individuals and companies.

Share Meals Together

A monthly pot-luck or weekly breakfast or lunch lets employees spend time together in a casual setting. Encourage social interaction by leaving devices behind, or by including an activity that helps people get to know each other. 

Volunteer Together

Volunteering off-site fosters relationships by removing staff from the stress of the office and encouraging them to work together on a common, but not work-related, goal.

Create Team Wellness Challenges

Instead of focusing on individual health goals, build wellness challenges around teams. Let employees encourage each other and get to know their colleagues better in the process. A team meditation challenge builds social connection with added benefit. 

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 Read how restaurant workers’ health improved during its company mindfulness month challenge.

Connecting in a Work-from-Home World

When working from home we miss out on many of the casual opportunities for connection the workplace provides. We no longer chat in the parking lot, the break room, or between cubicles. Each social interaction must be scheduled or pursued with intent. There are, however, ways to encourage social connectivity, even outside the traditional office.

  • Set up Zoom rooms or messaging channels dedicated to employee socialization
  • Create a lunch and learn program and invite employees to share their outside interests
  • Build extra time into online meetings for informal chatter
  • Participate as a team in a virtual charity event or volunteer off-site
  • Encourage supervisors to frequently, and casually, connect one on one with their staff 
  • Organize team wellness challenges that can be tracked online

Connected Employees are Happy Employees

Research says those with friends at work are 7 times more engaged, less likely to be injured on the job, produce higher quality work and generally report greater wellbeing. And as we know, happy employees are effective employees. 

There’s no need for everyone in your organization to be best friends, but when everyone’s getting along, outcomes are improved. Creating a culture that supports social health requires ongoing effort. But as the benefits start to manifest, that effort becomes joyful.

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