Being social is in our nature.
Even if you’re an introvert, human beings are a social species that rely on cooperation to survive and thrive. Especially in the workplace, humans must cooperate and work together to reach their goals. And while most Americans spend, on average, 35 hours a week at their jobs (and up to 60 hours a week in some industries), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, understanding how to cooperate and communicate at work is imperative to success.
However, even though humans crave being social, communication is not always as effective as it should be in the workplace. And if a team doesn’t communicate effectively, group dynamics can break down and productivity and mental health can suffer.
In 2018, The Economist surveyed more than 400 executives, managers and employees to determine the effects of poor communication. The following percentages represent how the employees felt it impacted them:
On the flipside, if team communication is strong, the whole office culture will benefit.
“One of the most overlooked ways to motivate your team is through communication. Through effective communication, your employees feel more empowered. It also gives them a sense of belonging, camaraderie and responsibility,” says John Rampton, entrepreneur and investor.
Get your communication strategy on track to improve employee morale with these simple ideas.
Be Direct about Everyone’s Responsibilities and Roles
Vague instructions and unclear expectations can derail the collaborative spirit because no one is confident on which tasks are theirs to accomplish. Conversely, experts at Organizational Diagnostics and Development explain:
“When team members know what is expected of them, which aspects of their role are most important, how the delivery of that role contributes to team goals and how their performance will be evaluated, the team as a whole performs to a higher level.”
This requires more than a basic job description and one-time project rundown. Identify specific roles and goals along with those for the team as a whole. This type of communication keeps teams engaged and excited about their work because they understand where their role fits into the whole picture.
Exchange Ideas and Boost Rapport over Coffee Breaks
One of the most quintessential features of any office is the coffee machine in the break room—but it’s not just for refueling during the mid-day slump. In fact, research indicates that employees who are able to pause their work and chat with colleagues informally over coffee are more energized when they return to their desks. For example, data published in the Harvard Business Review found that a team of Bank of America call center employees who participated in these “coffee break” interactions were as much as 10 percent more satisfied in their jobs and generated a $15 million increase in annual productivity gains.
Don’t underestimate the value of this informal communication to keep employees’ morale—and revenue—high. Make time to have casual conversations with employees over a quick coffee break to reinforce your relationship with them as well.
Build Weekly Touchpoint Meetings into Your Schedule
To prevent silos and keep everyone on the same page, meet weekly as a team to check-in. Offer updates and progress reports, create space for questions and concerns, welcome feedback and brainstorms, emphasize target objectives and reward standout contributions. When team members feel heard, they also feel a sense of trust and unity.
In fact, the team at Waggl explains; “[The] antidote for mistrust is creating an open two-way dialogue between the leadership and employees … Wider dispersion of knowledge can contribute to shared goals, and allow all levels of the organization to grasp the larger vision of what management is working on and where the organization is trying to go builds a shared sense of purpose.”
Use Communication-Forward Team Building Activities
Communication doesn’t always have to be “constructive” or done in the office to boost employee morale. In fact, communicating about things other than work can be just as valuable. In the teamwork guide, Empower Your Teamwork, communication experts explain:
“Leaders and managers know that having people work together means enhanced problem-solving capabilities and a greater potential for innovation, and this is how team building activities were born.”
By planning a fun outing, a dinner or playing ice-breaker games at lunch, you encourage employees to communicate and work together in an informal setting that can help increase that comradery in the office.
Improve Communication with Empathy
Empathy, or putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, is key to understanding and developing a communication strategy that promotes innovation and teamwork. Empathy is not just a soft skill or intrinsic, but a skill that can be taught and practiced for improvement. Practicing and promoting empathy at work can actually increase productivity and employee happiness. In fact, 93% of employees surveyed said they’re more likely to stay with an empathetic employer.
Communication is Key
These simple ideas may be all you need to get your team feeling empowered, excited and happy to be at work. Sometimes all it takes is a little extra effort, weekly check-ins and a splash of fun every so often to keep spirits high.
Want to get more information on how increasing empathy at work can also increase the bottom line?
Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes. She also writes for Business Insider, Score, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.