Want To Be Happier At Work? The Secret Lies In The Power Of Connections

Companies don’t make things happen; people make things happen. This was the idea behind the unplugged discussion “Bring Your Human To Work” in the Girls’ Lounge at SXSW 2018 with Meredith Kopit Levien, EVP and Chief Operating Officer, The New York Times and Erica Keswin, Workplace Strategist and Founder, Spaghetti Project. With employee engagement at an all-time low, relationships are more important now than ever before. Here are some highlights from Keswin, who focuses on “curating connection within companies,” on how employees can feel more connected and be happier at work.
On how connection boosts satisfaction. There is a Gallop study that found people with close friends at work (meaning someone who you connect with and talk to about things that are non-work related) are 50% more satisfied and seven times more engaged in their work. Research shows that when employees feel more connected at work, turnover rates decrease. That’s good for your company’s bottom line, because we all know that turnover is expensive.

Panel at The Girls' Lounge at SXSW 2018 with Meredith Kopit Levien and Erica Keswin.

“Bring Your Human To Work” panel in the Girls’ Lounge at SXSW 2018 with Erica Keswin and Meredith Kopit Levien.

On being friends with the boss. Technology is blurring the lines between work and the rest of our lives. The old workplace rule was to keep it professional. We all need to be appropriate in the workplace, but the new generation is changing norms because they want their bosses and co-workers to know them as whole people—not just for their role at work. Create cultures of belonging where employees feel like they can bring their human to work is key for having happier workers who stay with the company.
On intentionally building connections. Think about how you can cultivate connection opportunities for employees at various life stages in order to accommodate everyone. For example, working parents may not be able to attend office happy hours because they have to pick up their kids from daycare. Companies such as Slack are offering alternatives by having 3pm coffee breaks where everyone stops working to take a timeout when workers of all life stages are available.
On honoring relationships. Slow down and think about how you can bring empathy to the workplace in order to better honor your relationships both in and outside of the office. One example Keswin gave was when a manager she spoke with had both her remote and her onsite workers all call into a meeting to demonstrate to those onsite what it is like to be on the other end of the call where people are talking fast and you can’t always hear well. Onsite workers became more empathetic to offsite workers: The next time they had a conference call with remote workers where the onsite workers were all together in the same room, they slowed down their speech and made more of an effort to include remote workers in the conversation. It’s these little things that make a big difference in your office culture.
The Girls' Lounge at SXSW 2018.

Moments of connection inside the Girls’ Lounge at SXSW 2018.

On giving feedback. The next generation of workers coming into the workplace want feedback, which is critical to being able to learn and grow. How do we do this? Don’t wait until the end-of-year review—that’s too long. Try giving feedback in real time. Also, train first-line managers on how to give feedback in a productive way that will motivate their team to continue to grow.
On transparency. Be straightforward about your work and your life, and create clear expectations. As a manager, Keswin would tell her employees that she wouldn’t be checking emails from 6pm to 9pm because she was spending time with her three kids, and that they could call her cell if they needed her. Even more importantly, she let them know she’d be emailing at 9:30pm, but that they didn’t need to respond. Simply letting employees know the expectation can change workers’ lives, because they won’t feel pressured to respond at 11pm. Also, sharing more about your work and home life helps workers to understand and get to know each other as whole humans to foster cultures of care.
How are you fostering connections in your workplace? Please share your tips with us @wearetfq. We’d love to hear from you!