Ever felt like your workplace is full of Toms, Dicks and
Harries who don’t know each other from bars of soap?
Is the summer party a disaster waiting to happen?

A company full of mutual strangers can be damaging to its
working
culture
, often inhibiting overall productivity as well as
personal performances. While you can’t force
friendships in the office, you can encourage
employees to get to know each other by creating
opportunities to mingle.

If your company’s culture needs a makeover, here’s
where to begin:

Start with the new starters

Set good habits from day dot. When newcomers join the
business, have their manager walk them around the
office and introduce them to everyone in the organisation. If
you work in a massive company with thousands of
employees, draw the line at the rest of the department or
the same floor. While the new starter won’t remember everyone’s
name, this exercise will turn a bunch of strangers into a
network of familiar faces. It’s also a good ‘heads up’ on
who the newbie is for everyone else. (Yes, they will be
wondering).

Give the kitchen a makeover

If I had a pound for every hot drink I’ve made at
work, I’d probably be able to afford a personalised
coffee van to park by my desk all day long. The office kitchen
should be a hub for social interaction – a place to prepare
breakfast and lunch or brew a tea while having a casual
conversation with the people you don’t work directly with.
Here’s some food for thought: why not go one step further and
add some chairs and tables, so people can enjoy more than just
a brief moment away from their desk in a common area with other
colleagues? Adding a TV or scattering some newspapers and
magazines on the benches can also add to the
relaxed vibe and keep people coming back to mingle.

Sign up to support a charity

Nothing brings people together better than a good, deserving
cause. Pick an organisation and encourage employees to help
raise money. Holding different fundraising activities that
cater to different personalities will help employees
network with colleagues who share common
interests.  Another option
is using Everydayhero,
which allows individuals get behind a cause that matters
to them, and enlist support from peers.

Sponsor a company sports team

Think mixed netball, dodgeball, five-a-side football… The
key here is to downplay the competitiveness and promote
teamwork. The mutual respect
and sportsmanship this creates among colleagues will no
doubt carry across to the office and rub off on other
employees.  Find a corporate sporting league that
offers local after-hours games, put together a team and go get
’em, Tiger!

Tip: Perhaps go for a non-contact sport if you’re worried
about having an office full of broken arms and legs! Also,
remember to change the sport up each season so as many
people can get involved as possible.

Schedule inter-team meetings

If only for 15 minutes, facilitate ‘catch up’
sessions that include people from different areas of the
business. This will encourage collaboration among colleagues
outside of their immediate teams, and create a professional
forum for raising issues. Take a holistic approach to
supporting a positive corporate culture, by encouraging teams
to work cohesively with other teams as well. Here, ignorance is
NOT bliss. Understanding what other teams are working on can
minimise a ‘blaming’ culture when things go wrong.

Try hot-desking

If the office layout is as old as the dinosaurs, then
the approach to corporate culture is likely dated too. While
not everyone will be a fan of moving to a new spot each
week, hot desking is a technique
that fosters freshness and encourages employees to get to
know other people in the same building. It’s important to
shake up the workspace from time to time
– try rearranging tables, chairs and seating
arrangements.

Publish regular internal newsletters

Send around frequent communications emails to staff
members, showcasing company statistics, achievements,
employee profiles and other employee-related news. Be sure to
include plenty of photos (and name labels!) so workers can
learn the faces of distant colleagues, without even having
to talk to them! A newsletter format can be effective – treat
it like a weekly or monthly highlight reel that promotes
positivity and celebration of success. It can also be a great
vehicle for informing employees of upcoming events, major
workplace changes and company initiatives.

What are your top tips for axing awkwardness in the office?

Image: Shutterstock