Regardless of your industry or job title, a trusted colleague can boost your mood, offer advice, and sweeten your daily routine with friendship. But did you know that creating and nurturing workplace connections is also an invaluable part of performing at your best? According to research from both the University of Pennsylvania and California State University, greater workplace loneliness is related to lower job performance.
If this surprises you, consider this: Many of us spend more time with our coworkers than we do with our family and friends. It’s not so shocking, then, that we are at our happiest and most productive when we feel respected by and connected to the people we work with. That’s why this Cup of Calm is all about building meaningful relationships with your colleagues. Here’s how:
1. Work on Your “Workships”
Friendship sociologist and author Dr. Jan Yager describes this trusting relationship as “more than an acquaintance, but less than a friend.” “A ‘workship’ enables you to feel connected to someone,” she explains, “but it doesn’t have the same demands for intimacy and self-disclosure that are part of friendships.”
These are people whom you already respect and with whom you share a common workplace mission, such as completing a project on time or working in the same group. The trick is to transcend day-to-day tasks, long meetings, and logistical details to connect on a personal level. Start by asking your coworkers what they’re watching, reading, or listening to. Figuring out their tastes can inform how you interact with them—and you may find you have more in common than you thought. It may seem like small talk, but people appreciate it when you value and seek their opinion.
2. Ask For (and Offer Up) Support
Rather than give up the next time you get frustrated, approach one person and make a sincere, authentic appeal for assistance. When you open yourself up to someone, you’re telling them you trust and appreciate them—it’s rare that you’ll be met with anything less than an enthusiastic response. Do the opposite, too: Reach out to someone on your team when they seem stuck on a problem. Small gestures like this can strengthen bonds and shift the dynamic of the workplace.
Bonus tip: Make sure you say “thank you!” when someone lends you a hand. It may sound simple, but a study led by researchers from both Wharton and Harvard Business School found that it’s enough for people to feel appreciated, which results in a 50 percent increase in the amount of additional help offered. As an added bonus, this exchange benefits both parties involved: Showing and receiving gratitude triggers the body’s “feel good” hormones, which leads to a positive emotional state and an increased sense of wellbeing for both the thanker and the thankee.
3. Put Yourself Out There
As tempting as it may be to skip the office happy hour, investing time with your coworkers outside of the office can make a difference in how you relate in the office. When you take the time to purposefully cultivate a positive relationship with your coworkers, you’re showing that you recognize they have a life of value outside of work. Social events provide a rare opportunity to let your guard down.
For extra impact, don’t leave the conversation at the bar: If your coworker gushes about their passion for fantasy football or cooking, send them a quick email linking them to an article you thought they’d like—it’s an easy way to show that you are interested in what they have to say.
Kara Baskin is a Boston-based journalist and wellbeing expert. For over 15 years, she has been helping consumers live healthier, more fulfilling lives, writing for outlets such as The Boston Globe, Time, and Women’s Health. Kara has also collaborated on several books on women’s health and resilience. Find her on Twitter @kcbaskin