For many employers, one of the most challenging things about the job is working to build a strong company culture in the office. Plenty of research indicates that a strong, positive office culture has outsized benefits in the office space. Companies with a great culture often report greater productivity, less workplace stress, and reduced turnover compared to companies that don’t place an emphasis on building relationships.
It can feel extremely counterintuitive to work so hard to ensure employees are having periodic fun. After all, you’re putting in hours as a leader to plan these events, and then employees are missing work time in order to attend them. Maybe it doesn’t feel like the strategy should work, but it certainly does for a number of reasons. Arguably the two biggest ones have to do with building stronger workplace relationships and lowering stress.
Today, employees are more likely to have a higher ratio of work friends to non-work friends than previous generations. Work friends are essential components to a happy and healthy workplace environment and directly correlate to greater employee engagement and success. The plain and simple fact is that employees who have friends at work are more likely to be invested in the office, and the more friends they have, the more invested they will be.
Fostering the development of work friends can be as simple as organizing semi-regular work-sponsored events such as chili cook-offs — or even pulling together something bigger outside of work. Team-building activities outside of work help build relationships in a more relaxed environment that helps people get to know each other on a more personal level. Examples of fun activities include things like going to local events, participating in volunteer activities or even joining a company-sponsored co-ed team.
Another big factor with employee friendships is that they help to foster feelings of inclusion. Employees who feel included and heard within the company are more likely to stick around over the long term. Strong employee bonds are one of the most critical factors in employee satisfaction and retention. Oftentimes it isn’t the work that keeps people at a job — it is the relationships.
Another reason to get employees out of the office and doing something together is to help them lower their stress levels. Work can be a stressful place; there is a lot going on and an abundance of deadlines to meet. Without some sort of break from it all, employees can spiral into feeling overwhelmed, which leads to lower employee satisfaction, reduced productivity and less creative output.
Getting out and bonding as a work team is a great way to forget about all of the work stress for a while and just do something fun. Simple afternoons outside participating in a team-building activity could be enough. For instance, a scavenger hunt in a local park or a cornhole tournament can be engaging and easy for all employees to participate in.
Outside activities are particularly beneficial to employee stress levels as well. Plenty of research indicates that spending time outside has a significantly higher ability to lower stress hormones than spending time inside. Numerous other physical and mental health benefits are also linked to more time spent outside, such as a lower risk of depression and lower blood pressure.
Getting employees out to do things that aren’t work-related might seem like a waste of time, but the activities can actually have very real workplace benefits. Work-sponsored events play a significant role in helping to foster workplace community and reduce stress levels. Both of these things are valuable components of employee satisfaction, productivity and retention over time.