Life outside of the workplace is made up of hobbies, interests, children, partners and friends. The community we create gives our lives meaning and support.
So too, within the four walls of our workplace routines, communities need to be built.
Most working adult Australians spend a large portion of each week at their workplace. And this means there is opportunity to build a community, even where the number of employees are small or remotely located.
It’s important for our psyhco-social wellbeing that a sense of being connected is part of our working lives. It takes an individual effort by each employee, coupled with leadership commitment, to create this sense of workplace community.
Here are four tips on how we can all create communities within our workplace:
Tip 1: Find your tribe – Engage
Some employees find their tribe easily, and for others an effort needs to be made. For better workplace relations and for our own mental wellbeing we need to find a tribe who we connect with, even if this is only one other person.
Some people refer to these colleagues as their ‘work friends’. This might be a colleague we share ideas with for the next project to be worked on. It may be a group of employees who gather in the lunchroom and complete word puzzles together. It could be that coffee runs are shared, or mid-afternoon walks around the block are taken together to keep energy levels high.
By being willing to engage with other people, we are more likely to open our minds to a broader range of people and experiences.
Individually, we need to make the effort to link in with people in our workplace who we feel comfortable with and who contribute to our sense of belonging.
Tip 2: Workplace recognition – Acknowledge
We need to work towards building workplaces where community members, that is our employees, support each other.
Leaders and managers can ask employees to recognise each other. For example, employees could compliment each other on their work. This can be done simply by inviting employees to share success stories during team meetings or by posting them in a designated place on the workplace intranet.
Recognition in the workplace can be for individual or team achievement. Acknowledgement of contribution goes a long way to employee satisfaction and creates a workplace where people feel valued. This builds the foundations for a healthy workplace community.
Tip 3: Create a virtual ‘water-cooler’ – Congregate
We need to connect with others around us at work more than the occasional walk-by g’day. We need to know where we can go to have a yarn and a cuppa with people we are comfortable with.
Some workplaces have small clusters of employees scattered around the country. It might be that our office has people spread over many floors, which also prevents us from meeting each other in the corridor.
We can create virtual water-coolers, where people can connect online and have chats. Group online chat threads can be contributed to over time and new people can join. This way any employee, from any location, can read and contribute to the conversation.
Employees need to be allowed to hang-out and chat. People are the most valuable part of any business and these conversations are contributing to their wellbeing and support while also building workplace community.
Tip 4: Make time for all to gather – Participate
Building community in the workplace isn’t always an organic process and time needs to be made for this purpose.
Leaders need to create time for all employees to gather and get to know each other, no matter what their level in the workplace hierarchy. These can be in-expensive and simple gatherings.
Only yesterday, an email titled “It’s time for another pizza afternoon. Details coming soon” landed in my inbox. One afternoon every couple of months we all walk away from keyboards and phones for to enjoy pizza and a drink together. Common topics of conversation are Holidays, AFL, Movies, Cooking, Exercise, Children.
These periodical gatherings can be viewed as an opportunity to find connections with people we may not already be connected to. This is an invaluable investment in our people and in our workplace community.
We’re all more likely take a personal stake in a business where we spend so much time, if we feel like we belong to a community, no matter what the size or shape it takes.
It is the ongoing, small, and often simple, things that count.