Initiatives to Help Nurture Community in The Workplace
What Is ‘Community’?
When I hear the word ‘community’ my mind immediately goes to a quaint little English village in the countryside filled with loveable yet mismatched characters who mange to muddle along and live in close proximity to each other in a charming and eccentric way. Of course, in the real, non-situation comedy world, the meaning of community is a little more complex!
Although the snapshot conjured up my mind’s eye is not quite true to life, there is something to be take from it; community does indeed require us to make an effort to get along with each other, even support each other, despite our various differences. Community is also not just found in little rural villages, they are found everywhere; in cities, towns, villages, campsites, festivals, online. A community can be as small as a household or as big as a city. All of the communities in our lives are important. However, a community runs on selflessness; an awareness of other peoples needs and successes. Community is not something that is given to us, it is something that we must work towards. Something we must build. It demands contribution. And the more you put into a community… the more you get out.
Why Does A Strong Community Matter at Work?
We spend most of our waking hours in the workplace. It is where we have the majority of our struggles, many of our successes and where we spend the most time with the same group of people. Without community, without connection, the workplace is void of humanity. Without community it is no more than a beige chunk of our existence that exists only for financial gain. Work should be a home away from home; a family. With community at work, not only will it feel like a nicer place to spend your time, but it will also be a place where you are pushed, celebrated and made accountable; it will be an opportunity for genuine personal growth and improvement. Invest in your colleagues, and they will invest in you.
But how best to nurture a social community at work? Here are a few initiatives to get you started…
1. Company Social Activities
Of course, most of us will socialise with people from work, but this is very different from organised, company led social activities. These create an accessible, no exclusive social environment; a place where all are involved above and beyond the other cliques and friendships that may exist within the group. It also created shared history for those colleagues that may be struggling to find things in common with one another… company events give them a shared event upon which to build a dialogue. So, yes, the company outing or team building event may seem a little cliché, but they are imperative to building a foundation of connection and familiarity between colleagues. So, whether it is a regular lunchtime event, an in house, target-based competition, or dinner and drinks; make it a priority, and make it regular.
2. Share Stories and Successes
This is great for dealing with two things; creating connection between people and ensuring that nobody feels that their work is going unnoticed. Find a way to broadcast the successes of your employees on a regular basis; a weekly bulletin or employee focused social media post, for example. Similarly, when new people come into an office, they may feel quite intimidated… help them to make connections my sharing their stories across the company. Loneliness at work is a growing issue, and we must invest in ways to ensure that nobody feels invisible.
3. Flexible Team Configuration
Find ways to mix your teams up. This is as useful at social events or team building exercises as it is on work projects and day to day business. Make an effort to mix your employee configurations up. This helps colleagues to make wider connections, and also gives everyone an opportunity to recognise the different skills and attributes bought to the table by one another.
4. Social Space Management
When designing your workspace, and thinking about the flow of it all, make sure that interaction between colleagues is a consideration. What not to do, for example, is to have all workers in separate closed off cubicles (like in movies about drab workplaces). Environments like this work in direct opposition to community, which, as a result, stunts morale and productivity. Spaces should be open and light, with space to breathe and communicate. Inspiring places full of natural light, colour, plant life and art in turn inspire staff to be inspired; to go above and beyond. Also, ensure that your break spaces inspire conversation and interaction. No poky little galley kitchens with old kettles and grimy microwaves. Try and incorporate somewhere open, comfortable and flowing. A relaxed workforce doth a happy and communicative community make!
By Chris Thomson