Turning a staff into a team isn’t a one-and-done job. Annual retreats or picnics are great, but what really counts are the smaller, more consistent things that help employees feel connected and valued.
Check out these simple but effective ideas from scientific research and our recent poll of your peers. Take note of any you might want to try in your company.
- Celebrate wins. Maybe sales just landed a big account or a team successfully completed a huge project. Savor these victories as a group through a team lunch, happy hour or other group outing. This helps to motivate others, and research suggests it increases on-the-job cooperation.
- Eat lunch together. It beats eating alone at your desk, and it could even improve job performance. In a 2015 study of firefighters, those who ate together regularly also worked together more effectively. While your job might not involve putting out fires (at least not in the literal sense), eating with your colleagues can help promote camaraderie and trust, which translates to more effective working relationships.
- Hold occasional socials. Even on small teams, people benefit from opportunities to establish a social connection. Hosting events that encourage companywide mingling can break down siloes and give people a wider perspective on their job. These could be as simple as hour-long monthly mixers with soft drinks and snacks. Or, if time allows, you could plan something more ambitious, like a bowling outing or a pizza night.
- Start a fitness “club.” Exercising with your colleagues can be a good way to get to know each other outside of a work setting. See if people are interested in walking during lunch or forming a group around another shared interest, such as running or softball. Along with the physical benefits of exercise, research shows it helps people feel more tolerant toward co-workers and more resilient to workplace stress
- Volunteer. Find out which causes are important to your co-workers, and see if there are simple ways you can help out. Or, perhaps there are causes that align with your company’s mission — for example, if your product or service is education-related, you and your colleagues might consider volunteering at a local school. Working together for a good cause can give you a sense of purpose that spills over into workday tasks.
- Build skills. Perhaps you and some colleagues would benefit from learning a skill or becoming proficient in a technology. Explore in-person or online courses that you could take together — and present your case to management so that they might cover the cost. Many chambers of commerce offer free workshops and seminars, and free or low-cost training is available online.
- Support colleagues’ passions outside the office. Maybe your head of sales moonlights as a jazz musician or the marketing assistant has a painting in a local art exhibit. Round up your colleagues and show your support by attending these occasions. Not everyone may feel comfortable having co-workers in attendance, though, so be sure to ask before arranging the outing.