A quick summary:
- What does it mean to build strong working relationships?
- The benefits of building relationships at work
- Conclusion on building strong working relationships
Building positive work relationships is critical to building a successful business — the two go hand-in-hand. If you’ve stumbled across this guide, and you lead a small business, team or an entire department, the principles we’re going to discuss apply to you.
We’re exploring how leaders can build strong working relationships amongst their workforce. Because it’s only once employees can collaborate, communicate and work harmoniously that they can thrive.
In fact, in one survey, around 75% of employers said communication was “very important”. That said, only 18% of employees say communication evaluations are part of their annual performance review.
In a nutshell, building stronger working relationships is an absolute necessity in the work environment. It’s an element of social wellbeing in the workplace that mustn’t be ignored.
Before we jump into the benefits of building relationships at work, let’s first explain what it means to create a workforce driven by communication and harmonious collaboration.
What does it mean to build strong working relationships?
Think back to a success you had or witnessed at work. It’s highly likely the results weren’t produced solely by one person. That’s because if businesses, departments or teams want to thrive, they must work together.
But that’s not all. Building positive work relationships doesn’t just mean creating success. It’s also how we support one another through low times. We all have days where we just don’t feel our usual selves — and that isn’t a problem.
Building positive work relationships is a great solution for the modern workplace. With burnout rates increasing and loneliness becoming a growing problem in a remote-first world, focusing on the relationships between your team can help.
To be understood, to feel motivated, and to be comfortable in the company of colleagues. These are all attributes of successful working relationships. To give you a clear idea, let’s look at a list of common characteristics:
- Respect for one another
- Trust and sincerity
- Effective communication
Of course, this list goes on. But these are some of the most important qualities to build relationships at work. That said, these same characteristics should be present in any relationship, whether it’s in the workplace or not.
A happier workforce is one where culture comes first. It’s when leadership focus on creating a place people like to work, both because of their role, but also their opportunity to collaborate and communicate with others.
Benefits of building relationships at work
Now that we’ve explored the true meaning of building strong working relationships, let’s turn our attention to the benefits. As a leader, these benefits should persuade you to work on your company culture, and encourage employees to build relationships at work.
Fewer colleague conflicts
As employers focus more on employee relationships, there should be fewer workplace conflicts. That’s because relationship building means understanding others, and through communication, we can overcome disagreements at work.
Unlike our personal lives and the relationships with have with friends and family, our connection with colleagues is dictated by achieving results, goals or specific outcomes. While personal relationships have their own set of challenges, our employer relies on success, and that can often mean collaborating with others to get there.
If we want to build strong working relationships with others, we need to communicate effectively, get to know each other and figure out how we can work best as a team or department.
Times can get tough at work, and we may find ourselves stressed, impatient or unhappy. Knowing how to manage our own emotions, but recognising the need for empathy for the way others feel is the key to building positive work relationships.
Healthier relationships increase engagement
Moving on from fewer colleague conflicts, healthier relationships in the workplace can increase engagement. If we’ve learnt anything over the years, it’s that employee engagement is one of the most important elements of a successful company.
When employees are engaged, they are more productive, they produce better work and they create more success for the company. But what is engagement?
Workplace engagement refers to how involved employees are with everything from their duties and responsibilities to their relationships with colleagues. Many things can increase engagement, including your company’s benefits package.
However, the more togetherness and belonging people feel in the workplace, the higher chance there is to improve engagement, and thus improve everything from productivity to retention and more.
Similar read: How to tackle discrimination in the workplace
Improves general health and wellbeing of employees
It’ll come as no surprise that relationships with others are good for us. They support healthier mental and emotional wellbeing. Humans are social creatures, and so it’s only natural that socialising is central to our health and happiness.
Psychologytoday.com has written a detailed look at the ways in which loneliness affects our health and wellbeing. The article says there’s a 26% to 32% higher chance of premature death for people who suffer from loneliness or social isolation.
If anything is true, a lack of strong working relationships can ignite a downward spiral of things for an employer. It’s this lack of connection and togetherness that drives problems like loneliness but also decreases our desire to collaborate or feel wanted/valued in the work environment.
Additionally, we found another report that suggested that social isolation can cause sleeplessness and reduced immune function. It’s also associated with higher rates of suicide and depression.
It’s clear there are negative consequences for our mental health caused by loneliness and social isolation. As an employee wellbeing platform, we feel it is super important to highlight this as one of the reasons or benefits for building positive work relationships.
Final note on building strong workplace relationships
To build relationships at work is to take emotional wellbeing and your general employee wellbeing strategy seriously. As we’ve seen, it’s not just crucial for the happiness of your people, but their health especially. Poor workplace relationships don't just hinder wellbeing, but can create issues of workplace bullying, conflicts and more.
As the world continues to adopt hybrid and remote work, it’s things like company culture that will crumble. That said, with enough measures in place to protect employee wellbeing, engagement and work relationships, leaders needn’t worry.
Consider social events where your team can get to know each other on a personal level (this also supports better work-life balance), or find projects that empower people to collaborate. There are plenty of opportunities to increase socialising and build relationships amongst employees — you just need to think outside the box as a leader.