Walking down the path to the office holding my daughter’s Peppa Pig umbrella for shelter, I realise the impact that one small act of kindness can have on our day. I left the house with little in terms of rain protection; I only had a few steps to get my little girl from the house to the car, and then from the car into preschool. I had forgotten about the longer slog from where I have to park my car to the office entrance at work.
As we were leaving the house, my 3-year-old turned and said, “you can have my Peppa Pig umbrella, Mummy.” Having thanked her, I wrote it off as just a sweet gesture from a toddler. As it turned out, that umbrella would save me from getting to work looking like a drowned rat in a torrential downpour. And it has made me smile every time I’ve looked it dripping in the corner this morning. That umbrella brightened my day (but unfortunately, not the weather!).
In thinking about the lonely workplace, we have written a bit about what a company could be doing to help combat this, but this is only part of the picture. Employees are a part of the company too and contribute to the workplace culture as much as the leadership of an organisation. As the worker ants on the ground floor, I concede that there’s only so much that individuals can change in terms of procedures and targets, but in terms of their peers’ experience of the working environment, could employees be doing more?
What this looks like in my workplaces
My current experience of work is that both jobs I do are immeasurably improved by the people that I work with. Colleagues that care about more than your productivity, who see you as an individual rather than a number, who know the parts of your job you find difficult, who make you smile: these things are invaluable. I can’t say we have this area completely mastered, but I can say with a small sense of pride that the older hands in both teams I work in take the time to get to know people, encourage each other and welcome newbies into the team. It feels like a unit; like someone has my back.
It takes time to develop these relationships, but it has to start with us as the employees themselves. I have written in another blog about how our feelings can rub off on those around us, and I think that is true for our attitude too.
Could you help set the tone for your office? What one thing could you do this week to make a colleague’s day better?
Be proactive in being inclusive
Recently published research investigated the link between workplace loneliness and job performance. They suggested that merely asking colleagues for their opinions or advice, or enquiring about their week can be enough to combat loneliness at work. (While this doesn’t mean employees have to socialise outside of the workplace, this would inevitably build stronger relationships.)
Whether under current COVID-19 restrictions your colleagues or your team are currently at work, working from home, or ‘at home, trying to work’ being proactive in this area can make a material difference to people and organisation…
*Here’s the detail behind that health headline above
There is good evidence that better connections at work increase productivity, but what
advantages do they have for the employees themselves? One significant outcome is an improvement in health. A 2018 study by Cigna and Ipsos found:
- That 89% of those with self-reported positive relationships with co-workers would describe themselves as being in good health.
- In contrast, 65% of those with self-reported fair or poor connections with colleagues would describe themselves as being in good health.