How to Connect People At Work

Feb 27, 2024

In my role, I have the privilege of assisting some of the most brilliant leaders and educators worldwide in enhancing connection and engagement within their organizations. Despite this, I have intentionally avoided engaging with the Surgeon General’s report on the epidemic of loneliness. For those unfamiliar, this report has been widely discussed, presenting alarming comparisons such as social isolation being as detrimental as smoking twelve cigarettes a day. My avoidance stems from a desire to focus on positive aspects, such as facilitating connections, due to the significant stigma associated with admitting to feelings of loneliness.

However, the issue is too significant to ignore. I’ve decided to share insights into this topic, aligning with the perspectives of Priya Parker, a respected author and one of my favorite individuals. Parker’s work, including her book The Art of Gathering, offers practical advice on fostering connections, especially in the workplace.

Understanding the Data on Social Engagement

Recent data highlights a concerning trend: we are spending less time with others. This decline is evident in various forms of social engagement, including a 20-hour monthly reduction in time spent with friends and significant decreases in family interaction outside the household, companionship, and general social engagement. This data, summarized by the Yale School of Public Health from an 80-page report by the Surgeon General, raises important questions about our societal trends towards isolation.

Connecting at Work: Practical Ideas

One interesting concept is the organization of “field trips,” similar to those we experienced in school, which can offer new and exciting environments for interaction among colleagues. Another suggestion is adopting the Swedish tradition of Fika, a designated half-hour during the workday for coworkers to socialize without discussing work, enhancing workplace connections through shared experiences.

Adding Structure to Enhance Connection

To facilitate these connections, it is helpful to introduce structured interactions. For example, organizing a 30-minute weekly gathering around a single question can stimulate conversation without the need for formal planning. This approach encourages participation and can make social interactions less daunting.

Revitalizing Work Culture with Human Connection

Introducing concepts like “Bring a Human to Work Day” can remind us of the value of being present and engaging with colleagues on a personal level, beyond mere task completion. Simple initiatives like “Bagel Wednesdays” can also contribute to building a stronger, more inclusive community at work.

While the reduction in social engagement presents challenges, there are numerous ways to counteract this trend, particularly in the workplace. By adopting structured social activities and emphasizing the importance of human connection, we can create more engaging, supportive, and productive work environments.