With the average person spending one-third of their life at work, it’s important for companies to create positive work environments for employees. This is especially important for Gen Z and Millennial employees, who prioritize company culture as one of the main factors in choosing an employer. More specifically, a work community can be a great morale builder as well as a practical way for employees to network and learn. Looking for some ways to help new employees build relationships at work? Start with some of these suggestions.

Introduce new employees right away 

Whenever a new hire starts with the company, make them feel welcome as a valued part of the team. The new employee’s manager should introduce them to individual team members and also send around a department-wide (or company-wide) email with a short background about the new hire, such as their previous employer, their role in the company, and their alma mater. During your first team meeting with a new hire, you can also play some icebreaker games to further encourage trust and connection among employees. 

Pair junior employees with mentors from senior leadership

Younger employees, especially those from Gen Z, place great emphasis on mentorship and professional development as a key part of their career. To aid in career development as well as community-building across the company, you should create mentoring groups that connect junior-level employees with senior-level employees. Companies such as Boeing and Deloitte are well-known for their dynamic mentorship programs, some of which start as early as student internships or during the entry-level recruitment cycle. In fact, 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer some type of corporate mentorship program

In addition, creating mentorship groups for historically underrepresented groups (such as women, ethnic minorities, first generation college students, and neurodiverse individuals) in your industry can aid in employee retention as well as encouraging a diverse community in your workplace. A few companies with diversity-related mentorship groups include PayPal, Intel, and Goldman Sachs.

Don’t neglect the lunch break!

The next time noon rolls around, take a look around your office. Are employees still sitting at their desks, with their heads bent over a salad while scrolling through emails on their computer screen? If so, you are missing out on one of the best opportunities to foster a sense of community. Research has shown that 62% of workers eat lunch at their desks rather than go outside or to a communal area. Break this pattern by encouraging employees to,take lunch breaks away from their workstation. An added benefit is that taking breaks increases employee engagement, so employees will return to their desks happier and more productive. 

Offer communal spaces for socializing and collaborating

Similar to the social isolation that comes from eating lunch at a desk, working in cubicles for 8 or more hours a day prevents employees from developing deeper connections with each other. As a result, individual workspaces can be siloed and lonely. According to research conducted by CBRE, 68% of millennials would trade some benefits like a higher salary or a promotion for a better workspace. 

Some companies have implemented open floor plans to encourage more employee interaction, but multiple studies have shown that this layout kills productivity and ultimately does more harm than good. If space permits, companies should create a dedicated break room or communal area for employees to eat lunch and spend time together away from their desks. Some companies, like WeWork and Google, are famous for communal spaces that incorporate video games, ping pong tables, or beer on tap. While your company doesn’t necessarily need fancy amenities like these, having a few dedicated sitting areas is a great place to start. If employees primarily work from laptops rather than desktops, this also provides employees the option of having a change of location for their work or collaborating together away from their desks. 

Host company-wide events and celebrations

Did your company just finish a huge project, like organizing a massive fundraiser or landing that big client? Celebrate with a company-sponsored lunch or an outing to a fun place like an arcade, laser tag, or an escape room. Recognizing employees’ teamwork is an excellent way to build community and realize that everyone is in it together.

In addition, you can create a sense of community in the office by celebrating employees’ birthdays or other major life events like an engagement or a baby shower. The holidays are another opportunity for community-building through potlucks, games, and Secret Santa gift exchanges. When there are lulls in the cadence of yearly celebrations, you can also create a friendly competition such as a pie-baking contest to give employees a fun reason to get together, socialize, and share food.

Encourage company volunteering 

Sometimes the best community-building initiatives are those that take place outside of the office. Volunteering as a company is an ideal way to encourage employees to work together to reach a common goal, while also making a positive impact in the broader community. Better yet, companies can engage in a volunteering project that aligns with the company’s mission. For example, a SaaS provider can work with schools and nonprofits to implement technological solutions to improve efficiency for the organization, or an accounting firm can work with low-income individuals to prepare tax returns for free. Other volunteering ideas include tutoring students in underserved communities, hosting a cleanup at a community garden, or serving at a local food pantry or soup kitchen.
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