You don’t have to look far to find articles that talk about how important happiness is in the workplace.
But, many of these articles place emphasis on freelancers, knowledge workers, professionals, and salaried employees. As if the rest of the world’s workforce doesn’t want to be happy.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 78 million Americans are paid hourly representing more than 58 percent of the country’s workforce. And not surprisingly, they also want to be engaged, encouraged, and championed for their work -- all mitigating factors that lead to the growth and development of our largest segment of workers and their overall happiness.
Happy Workers = Productive People
This week, an article by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in the Harvard Business Review hit on an alarming trend: the increasing rate of loneliness in America.
Worrisome enough in any context, there are profound impacts of loneliness in our work. In Murthy’s time as surgeon general between 2014 and 2017, he saw the negative effects of loneliness in familial and social life but also in our professional endeavors. “I met factory workers, doctors, small business owners, and teachers who described feeling alone in their work and on the verge of burnout,” he wrote.
No matter what we do in our work lives, we tackle it alongside colleagues that we see, on average, more than our families. Our biology relies on social connections and at work, those are no different.
According to a Gallup research study, these strong social connections in our professional lives helps employees stay more connected and engaged. Workers with stronger social ties are also less likely to be injured at work and will be more productive with higher-quality work output.
“A more connected workforce is more likely to enjoy greater fulfillment, productivity, and engagement while being more protected against illness, disability, and burnout,” Murthy writes.
Build Tangible Social Connections
In business, we are nothing without our customer relationships. In every phase of business, we’re constantly thinking about ways we can attract and retain customers.
What about encouraging and embracing the same strong social connections with our staff?
Whether it’s a morning stand-up, an afternoon shift change roll call, or a manager’s meeting, we have the opportunity to bring our teams together in unique ways.
Your workers don’t just show up to their job and exist in a vacuum. They have experiences and stories that shape who they are, and ultimately, can provide value in your company.
Showcase your staff. Go beyond the tired “employee of the month” plaque and provide unique opportunities for your employees to share the spotlight. If you have an employee newsletter or a private social channel, use them as a platform to tell stories about your staff, introduce new employees, or highlight their achievements.
For Julie Bostwick, Guest Services Manager at the McDonald’s in Grand Rapids, Michigan, she’s seen a correlation in a staff that is closely connected. Julie’s team uses Branch Messenger for employee scheduling, shift-swapping, and communication. The app has almost become their digital crew room.
“People chat on Branch,” points out Julie. “Just passing along information about our personal lives. That was the first time I saw pictures of a particular employee's -- a very popular employee’s new home and their new dog and we celebrated that at work. Everyone saw that and shared it. We’re close where we work, so it was really nice.
Little things like seeing employees rally around one another can go a long way to boosting morale and keeping people productive. Those are boosts for her store, which is seeing big shifts in how their employees stay engaged at work.
If you can, create a place where you can share the people that make up your staff. It can be a private messaging channel or even a wall in a back breakroom. But, find a place to share not just who works with you, but interesting ways to share the stories that make them unique.
Rotations. If your company allows for it, try letting employees rotate to different positions periodically. By learning and shadowing other teams or staff members, employees can learn to build trusting relationships while learning responsibilities and receiving additional training.
Ask for help. Encourage your staff to seek help when they need it. There’s no more powerful way to connect employees than by empowering a culture where employees can rely on each other and be open to asking for help when they need it.
Volunteering. Every community has their needs. As a business, you and your staff can provide resources like time and effort to help work towards solutions to unique problems. Whether it’s planting a garden or cooking meals for the elderly, gathering with your staff to accomplish a community goal is something that will benefit them by working together and getting to know each other, but also is something they’ll remember when they’re back at work. It also has the ability to put into context what work problems are compared to the real-life challenges people in our own neighborhoods are going through.
Team building. If time and staffing allows, find activities and events where your team can connect outside of work. Whether it’s go-carting or a ropes course, putting your team together in both a social environment while also tackling a fun activity help them to build stronger connections.
How are you helping your staff build stronger relationships? Share your story in the comments below!