How To Encourage Workplace Friendships And Increase Team Happiness
I was recently thinking about a Google Zeitgeist conference I attended.
During one talk, a psychologist asked people in the audience to give examples of what they thought makes people happy at work. He got a lot of the answers you’d expect: the responsibilities, the compensation, the manager.
They were all wrong.
In reality, the best predictor of workplace happiness is how many friends someone has in the office.
The correlation was incredible to me. The more people at work you can confide in, trust, or hang out with outside the office, the happier you’ll be in your job.
If you’re running a company, you may not be spending much time thinking about facilitating friendships among your team. But given what we know about happy team members, that may need to change.
Here are five ways to keep everyone connected, and most importantly, happy:
1. Help new team members form relationships.
It’s so important to create opportunities for connection among new team members who don’t know anyone.
When you’re adding one or two people a month, it’s easy for them to get acclimated naturally — talking one-on-one with their manager, meeting with their team members, and generally getting the lay of the land.
That changes drastically when your company is hiring several people per week.
At ThirdLove, we hold monthly sessions with 15–20 new teammates. We bring them together and our functional leaders come in and talk about a certain aspect of the company. Operations, data science, our story — anything relevant to the business.
Not only do the new team members have a chance to meet each other and interact, but they also gain important knowledge about what other teams are working on.
2. Set up random coffee pairings every month.
Our team started doing this recently, and it’s been a huge success.
Anyone who wants to get to know their co-workers better are encouraged to sign up for the program. Then, all the names go in an Excel spreadsheet, and we randomly generate pairings every month.
The two people are sent an email about their pairing and are encouraged to grab a coffee and get to know each other.
- Where are their hobbies?
- What’s their role at the company?
- What’s it like working in that department?
It’s a relaxed way to meet more people in the company — and an easy program to set up.
3. Hold atypical company parties.
Company parties are excellent ways to get people together and help them bond.
But planning extravagant events always seems to land on the shoulders of one or two people who already have their hands full. So, instead of handing the planning work off to someone who is going to get around to it when they can (read: never), try giving the responsibility to an entire department.
We created a system where one department plans a happy hour each month, and they only have to do it once a year.
The Brand team set the bar really high with our first event, so it’s become something of a competition to see who can throw the best one.
The more teams you can involve in helping create the culture, the more fun everyone is going to have and the more involved everyone feels.
4. Set up lunch and learns.
Once a month, we do what we call a “lunch and learn.”
Each team presents something they’re working on over a lunch that anyone can attend. We set up a buffet so people can sit, enjoy some food, and learn about a company initiative. We’ve had presentations on a new collection the design team is developing, an update on the loyalty program, a direct mail report — all kinds of things.
It’s a good opportunity to casually bring people together while showing them what other teams are working on.
5. Send company update emails.
I never used to send update emails.
They felt too formal and impersonal, so we opted for a Monday morning stand-up meeting instead. We’d all meet in a circle to talk about our weekends and what we were working on that week.
But once your company gets to a certain size, you can’t even get everyone in the same room, let alone hear from every individual. The email updates are the best way to keep people informed and excited about what’s happening in the company.
When everyone’s in the loop, chatting about new developments and bonding over common goals, you’ll absolutely notice the difference in the atmosphere and general happiness around the office.