When poor relationships exist between coworkers, productivity is more likely to be waylaid by tensions, inter-office conflicts, and ineffective communication. In contrast, when coworkers know and respect each other — and know how to work together effectively — the entire company runs more smoothly and efficiently. Good relationships between coworkers also boosts morale, which can improve employee satisfaction and retention.
So if it’s a well-known fact that happier employees are more productive employees, how does one go about facilitating this happiness? Much of it comes down to building healthy dynamics between coworkers. Here are seven ways to make that happen.
1. Encourage water cooler talk.
When looked at through a certain lens, small moments of downtime throughout the day can seem like a productivity drain. But in fact, every time coworkers spend time chatting — before a meeting, upon first arriving to work, by the water cooler and so on — they’re getting to know each other better, finding common ground and strengthening bonds, all of which will lead to higher morale and streamlined collaborations.
2. Spend time together outside of work.
Beyond water cooler talk, this is one of the quickest ways to inspire employees to get to know each other as real people. Outside of work, employees are more likely to “let their hair down” and bring their full selves to the table. The key here is providing team members with plenty of different options for connecting outside of work. Some might enjoy volunteering together, others might like heading to the gym for a shared sweat sesh, and still others might savor relaxing over a drink during Happy Hour. Of course, some employees will prefer not to spend their free time hanging out with their coworkers — and that should be okay too. Time spent together is much more likely to build positive rapport if participants actually want to be there.
3. Facilitate knowledge sharing.
Teams that learn together, grow together. And the odds are good that each of your team members regularly engages in learning something new. Turn this into an opportunity for team bonding by hosting regular “knowledge share” sessions in which a given team member(s) educates the group about their learnings from a recent conference or professional development opportunity or a personal hobby or skill set that might prove interesting or useful to their coworkers. As an added bonus, this kind of programming provides employees with an opportunity to better get to know each other as people, not just workers.
4. Celebrate teamwork (not competition).
If you want team members to support each other and maintain positive relationships, then it’s important not to pit them against each other. Instead, emphasize teamwork and collaboration by establishing these as core company values. Acknowledge and celebrate employees for their efforts to work with each other and for their accomplishments when they do. Make it clear that respecting and supporting one’s coworkers is valued more than attempting to rise above them. Encourage employees to ask each other for help and to offer help when it’s asked for. Avoid placing too much stock in office hierarchies, and make sure employees at all levels are subject to the same rules and respect.
5. Provide professional development opportunities.
Effective communication is critical for building and maintaining rapport among coworkers, so don’t assume everyone on your team is already an expert at communication. Instead, provide plenty of opportunities for team members to beef up on their communication skills with workshops and other professional development opportunities geared toward building empathy, active listening skills, catering to different communication styles and so on.
6. Welcome new employees.
After hiring new employees, make sure to truly welcome them into the fold. Bring the whole team together for introductions and an informal “get to know each other” session, and make sure to onboard new employees to the team’s culture around things like knowledge sharing, teamwork and respect. This way, you’ll help ensure the team continues to function cohesively and that the company culture is sustained by newer generations of team members.
7. Promote effective conflict resolution.
When it comes to creating a healthy workplace, even the greatest intentions and the most willing team members won’t prevent the occasional office conflict. Whether or not these conflicts turn into serious issues is dependent on how they’re handled. Make sure you have clear-cut procedures in place for handling conflict resolution in respectful and constructive ways, and onboard your whole team to these policies. If everyone on the team knows there’s a system in place for handling conflict effectively, they’ll be less likely to fear or avoid issues when they arise. And that will mean productivity is less likely to be waylaid by lingering tensions.
Utilizing these strategies will not only facilitate positive relationships between coworkers. It will also make it more likely that each individual on your team is happy and engaged at work. And that’s a win-win for both your team members and the company as a whole.
Dan Scalco is the founder and Director of Marketing at Digitalux, a digital marketing agency located in Hoboken, New Jersey. Throughout his career, he has helped hundreds of businesses save time, increase leads, and maximize sales.