Let’s talk about your team at work. Yes, the group of people you start each day with and work through any project alongside, just like your cup of coffee. For those of us who work in teams, the importance of a strong dynamic is not overlooked. Considering the hours spent interacting with our coworkers, it is necessary to feel comfortable and confident in our teams. Each member should feel a sense of belonging, which applies to more than their role as the “savvy numbers guy” or “tech wiz.”
What to Fear From a Hostile Work Environment
Imagine your work depends heavily on communication and collaboration. But what if your team members actively kept to themselves, avoiding interactions with one another? Perhaps they were not interested in building a relationship with you and your other coworkers. Or it may be that management has no systems that encourage these relationships. Your day-to-day work life would perhaps feel hostile. Joyful interactions would be limited, creating an isolating setting. You may even feel deterred from collaborating, sharing insights, or seeking help when needed. In this hostile and isolated environment, team productivity is at a severe low. To combat this, employers can create a productive work environment by strengthening the bonds with and between their employees. Author and happiness expert Annie McKee in her book, " How To Be Happy At Work," claims that the foundation for a successful team is built upon friendships with coworkers. Those friendships offer personal fulfillment to boost morale that employees can translate into their own work and teamwork.
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How to Build Team Relationships for a Productivity Boost
Before jumping head first into unoriginal team-building games or expensive company retreats, casual get-togethers can make all the difference in team productivity.
- Attend team dinners, which can be both casual and formal, depending on your team members’ preferences. If your team works long hours, a lunch break to a favorite local spot is another great way to refuel and engage as a group.
- Organize small events, such as intimate birthday celebrations or holiday parties for your team.
- Set exercise meet-ups, whether that be a morning jog once a week or a weekend spin class, to spend time outside the office while also promoting wellness.
Of course, these suggestions are simple or informal, deviating from an organization’s more structured practices. Nevertheless, friendships are meant to be casual, free from the pressure and insecurities of newer relationships. In terms of larger events, whole-office gatherings are valuable for meeting individuals from other departments or for networking. However, smaller gatherings establish an intimate setting for a single group to get to know one another. Coordinating an event for only your team also requires far less planning and a smaller budget. Additionally, considering the unique circumstances of COVID-19, smaller meet-ups that take place online or in-person, when appropriate, are more practical for individual teams. The wonderful conversations you have with your coworkers about their interests, families, hobbies, and more will deepen your connection; this will then take shape back in the office. You will feel comfortable approaching your team member about a challenge or you will know what conversation or humor can brighten their day. The cycle is pushed further as your happier, well-connected team works more productively. Author and Duke University professor Dan Ariely discusses in his Ted Talk that an employee’s motivation is linked to more than their salary. An individual’s pride and sense of ownership in their work contributes to engagement. Team members who support each other in their work endeavors can add noncompensatory rewards like confidence or encouragement, influencing productivity naturally.
Why Your Team’s Productivity Depends on Health
The benefits of a well-bonded team is revealed in employees’ health. The Mayo Clinic discusses the benefits of strong social relationships on an individual’s health. Building relationships with your coworkers can promote stress reduction. Supportive coworkers can make all the difference when it comes to staying calm before a big presentation or making substantial transitions, like working remotely during a pandemic. The Mayo Clinic advocates that friendships and other sources of strong social support help reduce the risk of significant health conditions, such as depression, high blood pressure, and an elevated body mass index (BMI). The next question this information addresses is the role of a healthy lifestyle on team productivity and lowering an organization’s costs. A survey from insurance company Willis Group pinpointed the savings associated with healthier employees. In general, the healthier a company’s employees, the lower their healthcare costs. 61% of the participating organizations in the survey identified the health habits of their employees as their primary challenge in controlling healthcare costs. Willis further reports that 93% of employers believe that healthier workers are more productive.
Employee health connects right back to team productivity. Ian Larkin, a management professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, noted that individuals can work harder when they show up to work feeling their best physically. Generally, a healthy employee is inherently more productive because they are present for their team. Team members who have fewer sick days are keeping their work on schedule, not falling behind their team’s deadlines or leaving the work to fall on their coworkers’ plates. A social and healthy lifestyle is especially valuable now as we adapt to the new settings of the COVID-19 crisis. Even if you cannot see your coworkers in person, continue to reach out! If you can strengthen your bond while apart, your team will perform better than ever when back together.