Valérie Fernandez

By Valérie Fernandez

November 3, 2020

Business

Fostering friendships at work …even remotely

Article revised on 3 November 2020

For most of us, work offers the opportunity to socialize with our coworkers. We are weaving relationships that go beyond our professional setting. According to a survey conducted by American researchers, over 80% of people considered they had at least one friend at work.

The strong ties that we forge are not only critical in motivating us, but they’re also good for our health; however, during the pandemic, teleworking has often deprived us of the informal interactions we had with our coworkers. Here are some tips to strengthen those ties, which have become more important than ever.

Positive workplace impact

A number of studies has shown the importance of nurturing the interpersonal relationships we have with our co-workers. According to the Association paritaire pour la santé et la sécurité du travail, there are a number of positive benefits:

  • Job satisfaction
  • Reduction of stress and frustration
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Mutual aid and support to overcome difficult times
  • Feeling of control over our work and heightened job performance
  • Feeling of belonging and personal motivation

What’s more, these ties can benefit our physical health, driving away certain types of cancers and risks of cardiovascular problems. So why deprive ourselves? It’s not surprising that despite the benefits of teleworking, a third of workers would willingly return to the office!

Communication is the key to a united team

Communication strengthens our community spirit. The interaction we have with our coworkers, i.e. concern for others, nurtures the feeling that we form a united team. Since we cannot get together physically, we can bond together from a distance:

  • Given the current context, be more patient when faced with irritants.
  • Don’t put undue pressure on your coworkers.
  • Show empathy and take the time to find out how they’re feeling.

A quick phone call to ask what’s new, to say hello or to remind a coworker who is going through a difficult time that you are there for support can really help them – and you. Everyone goes through rough patches, deals with uncertainty and goes through personal and family issues. Talking about an issue will not only relieve some of the pressure, but it may trigger discussions on solutions that we may not have thought of on our own.

If you feel that a person is going through a particularly difficult time and you no longer feel that you can support him or her without it affecting your own mental health, it would be best to refer that person to professionals who are better equipped to help.

Rethink team meetings

Did your team have daily or weekly meetings at the office? You should continue to have these meetings.

Here are some ideas to add a more human touch to your online meetings.

  • Make time at the start of the meeting to see how everyone is doing and see who might be going through a difficult time.
  • Decide on a topic related to the problem and discuss it for several minutes to find solutions and work through it together. What challenges are you dealing with at the moment? What worries you the most? What is your average day like? How do you stay motivated and productive?
  • Do a round table so that your coworkers can talk about something they accomplished that week, their priority for the day, or something that might be preventing them from making progress on a project.

Maximize good times in virtual mode

Are you accustomed to celebrating successes, highlighting events and going for a cocktail with friends on a Thursday evening? Try to find ways to celebrate these important events in virtual mode.

Here are some ideas to help you strengthen those ties:

  • Plan virtual happy hours: You can plan a virtual team get-together with your coworkers to sip a glass of wine, cocktail or a mocktail and chat in an informal setting. You can also decide to all chip in and have your favourite appetizers or meals delivered to your home and enjoy your meal as you chat with your coworkers.
  • Plan a group activity that can be held online: wine tasting, cooking classes, breathing workshops, physical activity, stress management classes, conferences, training, etc. A number of companies are thinking outside the box to offer innovative services remotely… Let’s support them!
  • Is one of your coworkers celebrating a birthday? Have a birthday meal or cake delivered to his or her home, plan a time to highlight that person’s special day by singing and toasting to his or her good health.
  • Share some of your tips to fight the boredom and to get through this period more seamlessly: list of restaurants offering delivery or takeout, fun television series or movies, recipes to try, online shows, ideas to foster work-life balance, etc.
  • Introduce coffee breaks at set times where members of the company can get together via videoconference. This would enable people to get together and chat with other coworkers they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to do otherwise.
  • Organize team building activities: “Two truths and a lie”, “10 things in common”, “What to bring on a deserted island”, etc.

Staying united despite the obstacles to help us live better!

At this stage, maintaining the ties we forged with our communities becomes a question of ensuring balance in our lives. Our coworkers are part of our “ecosystem” to help us live better. Let’s not forget the important role they play!

Want to encourage your employees to adopt healthy lifestyle habits?

Discover the VIVA workplace health and wellness program.

Visit our website

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