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9 Pieces of Advice to Promote Better Relationships at Work

Posted: 11 May 2018

Many of us draw a distinct line between our work life and our social life – we often think of our ‘work’ friends as separate to our other friends – but this attitude could be more damaging than you realise. Maintaining healthy connections with your co-workers benefits you as well as your employer, so we’ve put together some advice to help you make the most of the people you work with. 

If you work full time, it’s a fact that you will spend more time with your colleagues than your family on any given week – that’s not a choice, that’s down to basic mathematics. With the average office worker spending 8 hours at work per day (and then some), plus time spent commuting, there’s little time left over for spending with friends and family. With such a large portion of each day spent at work, it seems logical to make the most of your situation and nurture positive relationships with those who surround you every day.

Research from Indeed shows that connection with your co-workers is vital to promote a healthy, happy workplace. Employees who have a best friend at work are much more loyal and engaged – a study showed that the number one reason people stayed in their job was due to relationships with their colleagues. As well as having a positive impact on the workplace, positive social relationships have been proven toincrease happiness and reduce stress.

9 ways to build better relationships with your co-workers

1. Lay the foundations for friendship

Developing friendships takes a bit of time and effort to nurture. It’s a two-way thing, that requires input from both parties, but there’s no need to wait for someone else to befriend you. Be proactive and lay the foundations for great working relationships. Whether you’ve just started a new job, or you’ve been in your role for a while but want to get to know people better, simply talking to people is a solid way to start building trust and rapport. It may start with small talk to break the ice, but by simply being open and receptive, you’ll be sowing the seeds for more in-depth conversations down the line.

2. Less talking, more listening

Strong relationships start with mutual trust and respect. By practising being a better listener, taking a genuine interest in what people have to say, you’ll make them feel valued and open up the doors to better communication.

3. Make the effort to engage with people

When it comes to your breaks, it can be all too easy to shun human interaction and seize the opportunity to get your social media fix, becoming absorbed in your screen and shutting out the world around you. Whilst this is OK occasionally, by doing this every day, you’ll miss out on getting to know your colleagues better.

Your phone is your entertainment, your connection with the world, your means of communication – which is kind of oxymoronic, because in doing so, you cut yourself off from people, putting up an invisible barrier that says ‘do not disturb’. Try keeping your phone in your bag or pocket at lunch – approach someone who’s sat by themselves and strike up a conversation. It could be as simple as asking what they’ve got for lunch, or seeing how their day’s going.

4. Start a regular activity that gets people involved

Doing a group activity that isn’t just about work helps make people feel included and appreciated. It could be a weekly bake-off, book club, or lunchtime walk – something fun to look forward to each week will boost team morale and encourage interaction between people who might never talk to each other usually. 

5. Exercise together

Find a running buddy for a pre-work or lunchtime workout, or get a group of you together for an activity like Zumba or kick-boxing. Exercise is a great way to blow off some steam and stay healthy, but can also help you to engage with people on a different level, beyond simply viewing them as a colleague. In addition to this, it’s good motivation for you to keep it up if you’re held accountable by someone you see everyday. 

6. Organise an out-of-work activity

Activities outside of the office have the advantage of being away from the normal stresses and constraints of the workplace. They give people the chance to relax and talk in a more informal setting, without deadlines and meetings looming. After-work drinks are an obvious choice, but be aware this may automatically exclude some people. People with young families may be put off a weekday evening-do, so consider weekend daytime activities too – things like ‘escape-rooms’, bowling, and paintballing all offer great opportunities for team-building, and can be better environments for people to get to know each other.

7. Steer clear of gossiping

Gossiping can really damage workplace relationships. It often leads to things getting blown out of proportion and the truth getting twisted – a toxic situation for office politics. If you have an issue with someone at work, it’s best to have an honest and adult conversation with them to try and resolve it, rather than whispering behind their backs. In doing so, you may be able to clear the air and work towards improving the relationship.

8. Show some appreciation

Everyone likes to feel appreciated, so don’t be shy with showing gratitude to your colleagues and managers for a job well done, or when they’ve helped you out with something. 

9. Embrace your enemies

OK, so ‘enemies’ might be a little strong, but there’s always going to be someone you don’t get along with, someone who rubs you up the wrong way. Instead of shying away from this, or worse, exacerbating it with confrontations and aggression, make an effort to improve the relationship by engaging in conversation. Remain professional and try to put your emotions aside, find some common ground that you can connect over, or something you can agree on, as the foundation to build a rapport from. If you go deep enough and strip away the ego, you may realise that you’re not so different from each other after all!

Humans by nature are sociable creatures – we crave connection with others and thrive when we have positive interactions with other people. Reach out to the people around you, take some time to get to know your colleagues better and nurture relationships to build a happier, healthier and more productive workplace.

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