Ever felt like your workplace is full of Toms, Dicks and Harries who don’t know each other from bars of soap? Is the summer party a disaster waiting to happen?
A company full of mutual strangers can be damaging to its working culture, often inhibiting overall productivity as well as personal performances. While you can’t force friendships in the office, you can encourage employees to get to know each other by creating opportunities to mingle.
If your company’s culture needs a makeover, here’s where to begin:
Start with the new starters
Set good habits from day dot. When newcomers join the business, have their manager walk them around the office and introduce them to everyone in the organisation. If you work in a massive company with thousands of employees, draw the line at the rest of the department or the same floor. While the new starter won’t remember everyone’s name, this exercise will turn a bunch of strangers into a network of familiar faces. It’s also a good ‘heads up’ on who the newbie is for everyone else. (Yes, they will be wondering).
Give the kitchen a makeover
If I had a pound for every hot drink I’ve made at work, I’d probably be able to afford a personalised coffee van to park by my desk all day long. The office kitchen should be a hub for social interaction – a place to prepare breakfast and lunch or brew a tea while having a casual conversation with the people you don’t work directly with. Here’s some food for thought: why not go one step further and add some chairs and tables, so people can enjoy more than just a brief moment away from their desk in a common area with other colleagues? Adding a TV or scattering some newspapers and magazines on the benches can also add to the relaxed vibe and keep people coming back to mingle.
Sign up to support a charity
Nothing brings people together better than a good, deserving cause. Pick an organisation and encourage employees to help raise money. Holding different fundraising activities that cater to different personalities will help employees network with colleagues who share common interests. Another option is using Everydayhero, which allows individuals get behind a cause that matters to them, and enlist support from peers.
Sponsor a company sports team
Think mixed netball, dodgeball, five-a-side football… The key here is to downplay the competitiveness and promote teamwork. The mutual respect and sportsmanship this creates among colleagues will no doubt carry across to the office and rub off on other employees. Find a corporate sporting league that offers local after-hours games, put together a team and go get ’em, Tiger!
Tip: Perhaps go for a non-contact sport if you’re worried about having an office full of broken arms and legs! Also, remember to change the sport up each season so as many people can get involved as possible.
Schedule inter-team meetings
If only for 15 minutes, facilitate ‘catch up’ sessions that include people from different areas of the business. This will encourage collaboration among colleagues outside of their immediate teams, and create a professional forum for raising issues. Take a holistic approach to supporting a positive corporate culture, by encouraging teams to work cohesively with other teams as well. Here, ignorance is NOT bliss. Understanding what other teams are working on can minimise a ‘blaming’ culture when things go wrong.
If the office layout is as old as the dinosaurs, then the approach to corporate culture is likely dated too. While not everyone will be a fan of moving to a new spot each week, hot desking is a technique that fosters freshness and encourages employees to get to know other people in the same building. It’s important to shake up the workspace from time to time – try rearranging tables, chairs and seating arrangements.
Publish regular internal newsletters
Send around frequent communications emails to staff members, showcasing company statistics, achievements, employee profiles and other employee-related news. Be sure to include plenty of photos (and name labels!) so workers can learn the faces of distant colleagues, without even having to talk to them! A newsletter format can be effective – treat it like a weekly or monthly highlight reel that promotes positivity and celebration of success. It can also be a great vehicle for informing employees of upcoming events, major workplace changes and company initiatives.
What are your top tips for axing awkwardness in the office?