Improve Your Health by Connecting With Coworkers

Social connections are vital to our mental health, and although we don’t get to choose our coworkers, it’s great to have others around us who understand, more or less, what the pressures of our job are like. After all, we spend at least 40 hours a week at work, so in many ways, coworkers know what our lives are like more intimately than most. On the other hand, not talking to people we spend so much time around can feel very isolating.

It can be hard to go from saying a polite hello to the woman in the next cubicle to forming a friendship, even if it’s just an at-work friendship. Here some tips for making it past that hurdle and connecting with your coworkers —for your health and theirs.

1. Connect with coworkers on social media. Some people are guarded about their social media accounts, and don’t want their coworkers to know what they’re saying online. However, connecting online can be a great way for you and your coworkers to get to know each other outside of a work setting. Social media allows you to share opinions, interests and personalities without pressure, so that you can see whether you and your coworkers have anything in common.

2. Share interesting articles you read or quotes you find. Depending on the culture of your workplace, you can determine whether or not it’s appropriate to share articles that are not or are only loosely related to your job, but either way, it’s better to test the waters first by sharing interesting work-related articles. Just make sure that you’re not sharing so many that you’re cluttering your coworkers’ inboxes or taking away time needed for real work.

3. Review work for each other. If you’re stuck on a sentence in a document you’re writing, ask your coworker if he or she will take a look for you. Having a new set of eyes can be a great boost to a project, and it can open up discussions that will help you connect.

4. Invite coworkers to go to happy hour. Many people like to unwind after a long day of work, and it can add to the relaxation to be able to talk about work with people who were there. On the other hand, some people prefer not to talk about work at all after hours, so watch for signals in your coworkers that they’d rather stick to nonwork topics. Happy hour can be a great way to connect without the pressure of your professional environment. Just don’t get too carried away — no dancing on the table, OK?

5. Invite coworkers out to lunch. If you’re not the happy hour type — or even if you are —inviting a coworker to have lunch with you can be a great time to talk and unwind. A note: While offering to pay for a round of drinks at happy hour is seen as generous, it’s generally best not to offer to pay for coworkers’ lunches — this can be seen as a come-on.

6. Ask about the objects on a coworker’s desk. People tend to keep things they care about on their desks. Some people have photos of their loved ones, some have trophies or awards, some have quotes written on index cards. While watching body language to make sure you’re not veering into overly personal territory, ask your coworker who that is in a photo, what the award was for, or what the quote means. You may just discover that you have more in common than you think.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Valerie Cecil writes about all things “career” for Outbounding.com. In her spare time, she works toward workplace safety certifications through ETrainToday.com.