You might think you have to put in long hours or take on a big project to boost your performance at work. But did you know you can actually get better at your job by catching up with coworkers over lunch, swapping jokes between meetings, or coordinating coffee breaks?

It’s true: Building social connections at work is essential for our personal and professional development. Research shows that when we have friends at the office, our jobs are more enjoyable—and we’re less likely to feel burned out. A meQuilibrium study found that when we improve our connection to work, we’re less stressed, have more self-confidence and work/life balance, and even sleep better.

That’s why Dr. Robert Gabbay, Ph.D., Chief Medical Officer at Joslin Diabetes Center, has made it his mission to help his hospital be a more compassionate and empathetic place. In hospitals, burnout can be dangerous: Stressed out physicians may take it out on their colleagues, which undercuts team dynamics, and they are more likely to make mistakes when lives are at stake. Efforts to cultivate a sense of community, says Gabbay, have been well-received by the Joslin team, with “very positive” survey data on the faculty’s satisfaction.

Regardless of your industry or job title, a trusted colleague can boost your mood, offer advice, and sweeten your daily routine with friendship. Here are three tips for making your workplace relationships even better:

1. Connect the Dots:
You’re more likely to connect with colleagues if you feel like you’re on the same team and working toward the same goals. The trick is to transcend day-to-day tasks, long meetings, and logistical details to remember your shared mission. Gabbay sees burnout when physicians are isolated by paperwork and logistics that keep them away from their true desire: helping people.

“[It’s key is to] bring things back to why people do the job in the first place,” he says.

Next time you’re feeling disconnected, ask yourself: Why do you do what you do? What brought you to this job in the first place? You can use the larger mission and shared goals that you and your colleagues are working towards together to find common ground.

2. Use Two Simple Words:
Saying “thank you!” when someone lends you a hand 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 well-being for both the thanker and the thankee.

Keep the good vibes going by sharing your appreciation with a larger group. “When a patient has a good outcome, experience, or is grateful, I communicate that across the organization,” Gabbay says. “People appreciate it. It’s uplifting.”

3. Get Personal:
Regular socialization opportunities are key, particularly for time-strapped employees who don’t get much downtime to chat. No need for grand galas: Gabbay organizes simple events like ice cream socials and summer barbecues.

“Creating environments where [employees] can decompress and talk about their day really does make a difference,” he says. “These are people who you’re in the trenches with. Having some personal connection makes it easier to be empathetic.”

You don’t need to wait for the next office party to build these connections. The next time you’re having a tough day, ask a colleague to go for a walk or grab lunch. You’ll change your scenery—and your perception, too.

Kara Baskin is a Boston-based journalist and well-being 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