Why Building Relationships at Work Matters (and 5 Ways to Do It)

What are the key ingredients of a thriving workplace? Veteran entrepreneurs may argue that workplace efficiency depends on employee engagement and retention. And if you want to boost engagement and retention, focus on building relationships at work.

Studies show that workplace success is linked to interoffice relationships. Not to mention, 55% of survey respondents said that work relationships were important to their quality of life.

Read on to learn why relationship building matters and how you and employees can develop positive work relationships that stick.

Benefits of a good working relationship

How you and your employees interact with one another matters to the success of your business. One SHRM report found that 67% of survey respondents with six to 25 workplace friends said they loved their company. Only 24% of employees with no workplace friends loved where they worked.

Happy employees who love where they work may translate to increased engagement and lowered employee turnover.

A good working relationship can increase an employee’s ability to stay engaged. According to one Gallup Poll, 63% of women with a best friend at work reported being engaged. On the other hand, only 29% of women with no best friend at work were engaged. The more engaged employees are with their jobs, the more productive and invested they become.

Workplace relationships can also discourage your employees from leaving your business. SHRM reported that 70% of employees with six to 25 friends would reject a job offer from another business. With a low turnover rate, you can save yourself from spending time and money replacing top talent.

Increased engagement and retention is something to write home about. So, how can you make it happen in your small business? How do you build work relationships?

5 Tips for building relationships at work

If you decide to prioritize building relationships in the workplace, you may need to make some changes in your small business.

You can’t force employees to become friends, but you may be able to promote building relationships at work with these five tips.

building relationships at work

1. Build relationships from the start

New hires or employees new to the workforce may have a more difficult time forming relationships with their co-workers. According to one CNBC report, people in entry-level jobs are the least likely to have a best friend at work.

Building relationships at work begins on an employee’s first day. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to establish an onboarding process that welcomes new employees, shows them the ropes, and incorporates your workforce.

You can support work relationship building by introducing new employees to your current workers during new hire onboarding. Delegate new hire training to one or more of your current employees. Encourage your new hire to ask one of their co-workers if they have any questions about their duties.

Another way you can encourage relationship building from the start is by hosting a team lunch where your new hire can get to know your current employees. You can cater lunch, take employees out to eat, or ask all employees to pack a lunch. Nothing says bonding like food, right?

2. Encourage interdepartmental communication

You can’t expect employees to build relationships if they don’t get the chance to communicate. Creating teamwork opportunities can help bring employees together, but communication can be difficult if you have multiple departments in your small business.

Encourage interdepartmental communication by meeting regularly with your staff. That way, different departments or employees can discuss projects they are working on.

After meetings, employees should continue to collaborate with their co-workers, even if they are in separate departments. An employee in one department might be able to provide valuable information to another.

You might even consider pairing up employees from different departments to work on a project. Interdepartmental teamwork can strengthen your relationship building efforts and also increase innovation within your small company.

To further emphasize your commitment to creating an environment where employees can foster relationships, consider using collaboration tools, such as online messaging and video systems. That way, employees can keep in touch about work projects, exchange funny memes, and talk about their days.

Collaboration tools can especially encourage communication between your remote employees and in-house staff. With the right virtual collaboration tools, your employees can build relationships, regardless of their physical location.

3. Increase socialization opportunities at work

When employees lead busy lives, they may not have the time or energy to focus on building relationships at work.

According to the CNBC report, work friendships decline as age and responsibilities (both in and out of work) increase.

Rather than eating lunch together, your employees might work through their break to get more tasks done. And instead of meeting for coffee after work, your employees might head home to take care of their families or attend night class.

To balance the busy lives your employees lead, consider hosting social events during work hours. You can host holiday parties, monthly team lunches, or achievement celebrations. That way, employees can step away from their desks and build relationships with their co-workers.

4. Hold in-person training and team-building sessions

Continual training opportunities help develop your employees’ skills, knowledge, and abilities. And, synchronous, in-person training sessions can be great for building effective work relationships.

Team-building activities, like a volunteer opportunity or fun scavenger hunt, can also be helpful to growing work relationships.

Consider hosting a monthly or quarterly training or team-building meeting. That way, employees can touch base with one another, get to know new hires, and grow their strengths.

5. Start a wellness program

One report found that 66% of HR managers saw an increase in wellness programs between 2013 and 2018. Do you have a wellness program in your small business?

Aside from reducing absenteeism, cutting health care costs, and boosting productivity, wellness programs can build relationships among employees.

Employees who exercise and make healthy eating choices together may form a camaraderie due to the increased time spent together (either during lunch or after work) and shared goal. Not to mention, pursuing a common goal gives employees something to talk about.

You can encourage employees to participate in a wellness program by offering incentives and including information about your program in your employee handbook. Also, you can turn your wellness program into a friendly competition between employees or departments.

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