How to Connect Meaningfully at Work

August 5, 2020
4 Min Rea
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All relationships matter. Whether it’s personal or work relationships, connecting with others is at the heart of humanity.

Now, the question is how do you do that? As we all adjust to remote work, building connections virtually seems to be harder to foster. But we’re here to help!

Before we dive in, check out our inclusiveness guide. Matter’s compiled this master guide of inclusive leaders, the do’s and don’ts, and folks that can benefit from practicing inclusivity!

Why it matters to feel connected at work

Oftentimes, creating connections with your peers doesn’t feel like a priority when compared to deadlines and deliverables. However, it’s our authentic connections that make us feel included and empowered to create great work.

Connecting with your peers is paramount to your work experience. When you start to find common interests and develop stronger bonds with your peers you feel valued, included, and supported. It's like you've finally found your place. It's this inclusive environment that allow you to be more creative, resilient, and eager to contribute to your company.

What is the difference between connections and friends?

You don't have to be friends with everyone at work. It's a logistical nightmare trying to make enough time to be everyone’s go-to person. The key idea here is to create authentic connections with a few people as opposed to everyone.

When you focus your attention on a few colleagues, it gives you the opportunity to offer support on projects, celebrate work achievements, and be present in all interactions. Who knows? In the process of getting to know your peers it could turn into a lifelong friendship, and that’s a great bonus!

How to connect with your team

So, how do we develop connections at work? It all starts with building and sustaining strong and diverse working relationships. We've gathered some tips to build deeper connections and an inclusive environment.

🥳  Express gratitude. Next time you notice someone going above and beyond, let them know! A simple message goes a long way like, “Thank you for your hard work on this project. It turned out great!” Recognizing their efforts can make your colleagues feel genuinely acknowledged and appreciated.

🗓  Carve out time. Offering your time and attention to your team members does not mean dropping all your other responsibilities for them. You can be thoughtful when making time and space for conversations. For example, block off 30 minutes to grab coffee or lunch. This is an effective way to show your peer they matter and can lean on you.

🙌  Offer a helping hand. Everyone has times when they feel particularly vulnerable at work. For example, when facing roadblocks on project or feeling nervous before a presentation. Whatever the case may be, try to stay aware of these times and reach out. Consider, “Hey, I know that [stressful situation] is coming up. Is there anything I can do to help? I'm here if you need any support.”

🚩 Remember milestones. People like to feel recognized and remembered. Whether it's celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries, or a move into a new house, noticing your peers makes them feel valued beyond their role in the company. One simple thing you can do is schedule an annual reminder on your calendar for your coworkers’ birthdays.

Drawing of six team members smiling and chatting in an office space.
Make the time to connect with your coworkers meaningfully! (Courtesy of Dribbble)

How do I make connections while working from home?

Working from home doesn't mean you can't connect with your colleagues. This is your chance to get creative and leverage technology to maintain those working relationships. We cooked up some virtual team communication methods to stay connected even at home.

🚞 Reimagine commute time. Schedule a coffee catch up with a team member during your former drive or subway-schlep time each morning. You could even advocate for your whole team to do this weekly to keep everyone connected.

📹 Turn on video. At your next Zoom catch up, encourage a "video on" policy. This can help you better interpret reactions and catch nonverbal cues that would have been lost via phone and messaging. Also, don't forget the Zoom virtual background fun you'd be missing out on if not for video calls!

🙋 Be present. When you’re spending time with someone, be all there. Make eye contact and express that you’re genuinely glad to be able to chat. If you happen to be in the middle of a task when a colleague reaches out, be sure to communicate that and reschedule. This shows them that you want to be fully present when you meet up.

When in doubt, start small

The best way to connect is just to get started. Catch yourself in the little moments and make changes. It can be something as small as making eye contact and saying hello to someone new. Ask yourself, who would you turn to at work in times of stress and why? Now, work to be that person for someone else.

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