Four ways to foster social connexions and improve performance

January 5, 2018

Give Your Employees Room to Move and Socialise

You’ve probably heard the mantra, ‘sitting is the new smoking’, and all the negative consequences that come with being deskbound for 8 hours every day at work. According to the American Heart Association, long stretches of sedentary behaviour increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

In addition to the health impacts, sitting can also make us feel unproductive and isolated. In fact, workplace loneliness is on the rise and widely considered a growing epidemic. These are just a few reasons why many companies are paying more attention to effective office design and the creation of social spaces in the workplace.

Examining the value of social spaces

A recent article in Harvard Business Review notes that many employees, including half of CEOs, have reported feelings of loneliness. According to former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, ‘At work, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making’. To combat this, companies can provide more opportunities to build strong social connexions.

For example, Samsung built office spaces that combine large outdoor areas in between floors so that employees can get up, move around, and connect with people from different areas of the company. These open collaboration zones create a ‘water cooler’ effect that gets people talking and innovating.

Space that supports collaboration

Many employers are offering a variety of social spaces in the office that provide valuable opportunities to switch between work and social conversations. According to Harvard Business Review, office design should complement the “natural rhythm” of collaboration. There should be space that supports individual focus, group brainstorming, privacy, and informal socialisation. The key is balance since people can’t be social all the time.

Four strategies to help you build social spaces employees love

Steelcase observes that fostering social connexions at work must be a strategic priority for companies of all sizes. To be successful, use these tactics to create social spaces that encourage communication, engagement, and creativity:

  1. Create flexible, multipurpose spaces. Lounge areas should offer comfortable furniture so employees can get away from their rigid workstation and traditional meeting rooms. Provide a variety of seating options that encourage opportunities for casual breakout, brainstorming, or informal conversation.
  2. Food is universal. Employees need a space to eat and hydrate. Design an open café space where individuals can eat, grab a cup of coffee, and talk about the things they love to do outside of work. If it’s an inviting place to hang out, this space could also turn into a great area for kicking the tyres on a new business idea.
  3. Think outside the box. Stanford University research has found that walking leads to more creative thinking. Why not combine employee wellness initiatives with effective office design? For example, Facebook built a half-mile loop on the roof of its Menlo Park headquarters where employees can participate in walking meetings.
  4. Be inclusive. Don’t forget to provide social opportunities for remote employees. You can utilise video, digital whiteboards, or social channels like Slack that allow your distributed workforce to connect with teammates.

Adding movement and social time to the work day

Research shows that increased social interaction and movement at work can lead to happier, healthier employees. Find out what your workforce wants and design a variety of spaces that encourage social connexions. Asure Software’s Workplace Utilisation solutions can help you examine how employees are utilising different spaces in the office, so you can find spaces to redesign into social areas. By providing opportunities for employees to engage away from their desk, you can improve work performance and boost creativity.