Humans are social beings. Indeed, our sense of connection to others is so hardwired into us that it even affects our life expectancy – numerous studies have found that strong relationships make us happier, healthier, and less at risk of premature death.
Of course, that need for human connection doesn’t disappear when we get to work. Far from being limited to our personal time, the need for social connection and supportive relationships is vital to happy and productive workplaces.
Connecting with our colleagues helps us feel engaged, motivated, and inspired. It builds stronger teams, leading to greater levels of productivity. And it makes being at work feel more fulfilling, resulting in happier employees and a lower rate of staff turnover.
So, if workplace relationships are so important, how can we go about making sure we’re connecting with our colleagues and direct reports in a meaningful way? And, as leaders and managers, how can we support our teams in doing the same?
These are some of the questions we’ll aim to answer in this blog post. We’ll also look more closely at why relationships are so important for creating a workplace culture that prioritizes connection and collaboration.
Why Is Connection Important in the Workplace?
Let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons why strong connections between employees are so important to your company’s success.
1. It Makes Us Happier
As we saw at the beginning of this post, human beings need social connection to be happy and healthy. Although our personal relationships with our friends and family play a major role, most of us spend a large chunk of our weeks at work.
As a result, the relationships we have with our colleagues are crucial to how happy and fulfilled we feel in our jobs. Research shows that having someone we consider a friend at work makes our jobs more enjoyable.
In contrast, feeling lonely can have a big impact on our mental health, leaving us at greater risk of depression.
Of course, your employees’ mental health should be reason enough to encourage connection in your workplace. But when your team members feel happy at work, it also has benefits for your business.
Research shows that people value happiness over their salary. And many studies confirm that those who feel happier at work are also more productive and more successful.
In turn, this leads to better employee retention, less absenteeism, and greater levels of engagement. All of which is great news for your bottom line.
2. It Helps Us Feel Motivated
Feeling connected to the people we work with doesn’t just boost our happiness and mental health. It also leads to higher levels of motivation and engagement.
When we feel valued by the people around us, we are more likely to believe that our work has purpose. Studies into the effect of social connections at work have found that people with high-quality workplace relationships perform better, are more committed to their work, and have a greater sense of their wider impact.
This appears to hold true at all levels within an organization. People feel more motivated when they have stronger relationships with their peers, as well as a better connection to their manager. As a result, your company is more likely to thrive if you encourage connection between team members, as well as between managers and their direct reports.
3. It Builds Stronger Teams
Teamwork is vital to business success. Teams that work well together are more resilient, better at problem-solving, and more productive. Individuals benefit from the support of their teammates and learn new skills from working closely together.
However, teams don’t magically start collaborating and communicating as a group. Great teamwork starts with relationships between individuals.
When people feel connected to their team members, they are more likely to trust one another, communicate regularly, and collaborate effectively. So, if you want your employees to work together for a common goal, prioritizing workplace connection is a must.
4. It Helps Us Get Stuff Done
As we’ve already seen, modern workplaces rely on people being able to work well together. If we want to get things done, we’re often reliant on other people for their input and actions.
As managers, we rely on our direct reports playing their part. But we also need to collaborate with other leaders within the organization. Few areas of work take place in isolation, so we need to be able to work across teams to share knowledge, agree on decisions, and make sure we act on them.
This is particularly crucial when we have new ideas or initiatives that need input from other teams. When we have a good relationship with other managers and leaders, we’re more likely to persuade them to support our suggestions and agree to play a role in making them happen.
Stronger relationships within and between teams also help to avoid conflict and miscommunications – both of which can slow down a business and affect our bottom line (as well as our employees’ morale).
5. It Leads to Creative Solutions
When we feel connected to the people around us, we have a sense of trust and belonging. In turn, this empowers us to speak up, share ideas, and get creative.
In teams that work closely together, we also see increased sharing of skills and knowledge. Because employees feel comfortable approaching one another and working together on projects, there are more opportunities for them to learn from one another in informal ways.
Research indicates that positive workplace relationships lead to higher levels of innovation and knowledge-sharing.
6. It Reduces Stress and Burnout
We’ve already looked at how stronger workplace relationships can contribute to us feeling happier, more motivated, and more fulfilled in our jobs. But it’s important to note that the lack of these relationships can be actively harmful to our mental health too.
There’s a strong link between loneliness and high levels of stress and burnout. At a time when over half of Americans report feeling burned out at work, this correlation is an important one for companies looking to support their staff members better.
Since we’re so intrinsically wired to seek connection with others, the lack of that connection can cause mental strain, contributing to feelings of stress and anxiety. On the other hand, feeling like we’re part of a supportive group can help us cope more easily with challenges at work.
7. It Makes Us Better Leaders
Everyone needs to feel connected at work. These strong relationships make a positive difference throughout the office hierarchy.
However, this is an area that is especially important to prioritize if you are a manager or leader. When we’re in charge of a team, the quality of the relationships we have with the people we manage makes a big difference to the team’s overall success.
Leaders who prioritize relationships are more likely to lead teams that are highly productive. Their team members are more engaged, more motivated, and have higher levels of satisfaction at work. Indeed, research by McKinsey and Company demonstrates that their relationship with management is the most important factor in an employee’s sense of job satisfaction.
In other words, if you lead a team, building strong relationships is crucial.
Clearly, if we want to be effective and successful in our careers, we can’t ignore the importance of connecting with the people we work with. Businesses are built on strong relationships, so we need to make this an area of priority. It’s critical to developing a high-performance organization.
In a future article, we’ll discuss practical strategies for building these strong workplace relationships to help you fully leverage connection to your advantage.