We may spend all day with our coworkers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have a strong connection with them.
Think about your workplace interactions. They probably revolve around requests or other asks, such as approving a memo or expediting a shipment or booking a meeting.
Here’s why it’s worth it to get to know our coworkers beyond a transactional level:
- We need to feel a sense of trust in order to work with our coworkers
- Having friendships in the office makes going to work more fun and exciting
- It’s nice to have people who have your back
- People are happier in the office when they feel a sense of gratitude
And just because you’re a remote worker or freelancer doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t or can’t connect with coworkers. In fact, it’s especially important to forge meaningful connections when your interactions are online based. Forging connections will help you feel like you’re part of a team and feel more fulfilled. And it’s never been easier to connect with people online.
Below are 9 fun and creative ideas for connecting with coworkers. So whether you work in the same office or remotely, you’ll find lots of different ways to deepen your relationship.
1. Share personal milestones
Maybe it’s a birth announcement or wedding photos or photos from your kid’s recital, sharing important life moments is a great way to forge a connection with your office.
Sometimes we forget that our coworkers are actual human beings! By sharing these important life moments, we let people know that we’re more than just our role and responsibilities. This is especially important when you and your coworkers are working remotely.
And when your coworker shares photos and updates, make sure to wish them congratulations or send a handwritten card. They will appreciate your thoughtfulness!
2. Ask for advice
The next time you’re trying to get to know a coworker, ask them for advice. People are always flattered when they’re seen as a trusted expert. So ask a coworker how they do X or Y. Maybe it’s their advice on how to handle a specific client. Or asking them to take a look at an important report. They get to flex their skills and knowledge, and they’re seen as someone you trust. And make sure to thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts.
3. Take a class together
A class is a fun and interesting way to connect with a coworker. Maybe it’s a class to develop your professional skills or a pottery class or an online writing class. And if you’re not super close to your coworker, a class is a good environment to get to know them. It’s less formal and stuffy than the office, but has enough structure and boundaries so that it’s not too awkward.
4. Attend a cultural event
If you’re looking to bond with your coworkers, ditch the team building exercises, and attend a cultural event instead.
Maybe it’s a storytelling show or a museum visit or a musical concert. Centering your group activity on a cultural event puts less pressure on you and your coworkers to come up with witty conversation. If there’s a lull in conversation you can admire a painting or remark on the show. And the event itself can spark conversation and allow people to open up more.
5. Have them over for a casual dinner
While an office happy hour is a popular way to connect with coworkers, it’s not always the best option. Bars can be loud, not everyone drinks alcohol, and things can get messy when alcohol is involved.
Another option is to host a low-pressure dinner with co-workers. No need to go all out and try to impress your colleagues with a 5-course meal. Make it easy on yourself by ordering pizza or Chinese food. It’s less work for you and the relaxed setting will put everyone at ease.
6. Have a weekend park hang
Alternatively, you can organize a weekend hang with co-workers at the park. This way, you don’t have to stress about having people over, and you can enjoy each other’s company in an outdoor setting.
You can make the hangout more fun and interactive by playing frisbee or other lawn games. Or bringing a guitar for group sing-a-longs. Or having people bring their favorite snacks and beverages.
7. Collaborate on projects together
When we work in an office, it’s so easy for our relationships to become transactional. We need an invoice approved or a memo signed. One way to transform this dynamic is to turn a transactional relationship into a collaborative one. Maybe you and your coworkers can collaborate on a project together like the company newsletter or podcast. Or it can even be as simple as working on a powerpoint or organizing an office birthday.
Collaboration is a great way to make professional relationships feel less transactional, and more thoughtful.
8. Reflect on other events you’ve enjoyed
In this TED talk, Priya Parker, the author of The Art of Gathering, recommends reflecting on past events to identify what you liked about them.
So if you’re looking for more ways to connect with coworkers, think back to the events you’ve previously enjoyed. What events or activities brought you and your coworkers closer together?
Maybe it was a movie night or a game night or an outdoor hike. Then, see if there are ways to replicate that experience. You don’t have to recreate a carbon copy. But see if there are ways you can replicate the vibes of that experience. Maybe what you loved about that outdoor hike was that it was low-key and mellow. Then replicate those vibes with a casual park hang.
9. Express gratitude
It doesn’t matter if you see your coworker everyday or only once a year over Zoom, it's important to express gratitude.
Sometimes all it takes is a simple thank you to enrich your relationship with a coworker. Whether it’s an email telling them how much you enjoyed their presentation, or a handwritten card expressing your thanks for a job well done, expressing gratitude makes people feel valued and recognized.
And gratitude also has a positive impact on the person expressing it. When you express gratitude, you will feel happier and more fulfilled.
Gratitude is a simple and meaningful way to appreciate your coworkers and your career.