As you walk into your office and over to your desk, no one speaks a word to you. You wave at one of your co-workers, but he pays no attention because he’s got his headphones on.
Even though you’ve just walked into a room full of people, you feel invisible. Everyone’s got their heads down, and they notice nothing but their screens. You ask yourself: “How could I change this? What would it take to get people to say ‘Good morning!’ around here?”
Once upon a time, I was in your shoes. I wondered each morning if maybe by sending a message over Slack or Link that would entice anyone to respond, ‘good morning’ wouldn’t need to be said out loud.
So, I sent my coworker Ed a message, and I saw him smile when he received it. He responded. Thing started looking up.
Each day, I started messaging someone new to see what would happen. Then, one morning, someone messaged me first. I thought: “This is kind of fun.”
Depending on the environment you work in, there may be a lot of people who are perfectly content to be working heads down, with low need for human interaction. Perhaps they’re not aware of the fact that they may appear to be rude.
The truth is that we all have a need for some sort of human connection. Whether it’s brought upon by someone else or not — and if sometimes it’s uncomfortable — it’s necessary to have an engaging working environment in some form or another.
From the beginning of the story, where Slack messages were sent start engaging people first thing in the morning, it didn’t stop there.
Conversations started around this. People realized they were missing something, and when the opportunity came up to do something about it, there was a bank of ideas to choose from. The best 3 that we implemented were:
We randomly selected up to six people from the office to go for lunch together. Everyone was encouraged to put their name in the hat and to be a part of it, but it was optional, of course. One person would be chosen to be the “Lunch Master,” who ultimately scheduled the lunch and finalized a place to go. I used tools like http://www.miniwebtool.com/random-name-picker/ to pick names and https://beta.doodle.com/ to agree on a day that worked for everyone. The most senior person attending was reimbursed by our company for the bill. If your company isn’t willing to pay for it, then have each person budget $20 or $25 for themselves.
Office Growth Talks
Talking about things unrelated to work extended out from the origin of the discussion to pollinate the office. A group of us decided to host a lunch-and-learn in the conference room. We gathered a list of ideas for topics people might like to present (I.E. Ergonomics or Personal Finance, Yoga or Meditation), and we had people sign up to host these free optional lunch-and-learns every two months. There was a ton of interest, and new ideas were flowing. There would always be a new topic on the way, and the office turned from a boring, quiet place to a happening space where people gathered to talk about mutual interests.
Everyone is passionate about something. Find out someone’s passions or side hobbies, and you will boost that person’s mood by expressing interest in them sharing the idea. And if the idea can be shared more widely throughout the office, then it’s a win-win.
There are a lot of little challenges that can be done in groups that are a ton of fun. We ran an ‘Office Olympics’ for a few weeks at lunchtime to see what would happen. Different groups partook in different challenges. Don’t let the word ‘Olympics’ fool you — it doesn’t mean that the challenges were all athletic. Not everyone would be comfortable with that, and we knew that. Some can be brain challenges, board game challenges, trivia, or simply trying to move five cotton balls from one glass to another with a dab of Vaseline on your nose. The challenge possibilities can meet the needs of your office and don’t need to be expensive. Anyone can choose the challenges that they participate in and earn points for each one. Depending on what your company can afford to budget, take the winning team out for lunch, or give them trophies.
So, while a lot of people consider themselves introverted, and some people legitimately need to focus and can’t concentrate on more than one thing at a time (even the slightest interruption to say good morning might throw them off), there are endless possibilities for creating engaging interactions. And even if people do not appear to need them, it makes a difference in the long term.
It’s also true that the people who bring coworkers together in the office — the ones who do that little bit extra to make something happen — are the ‘linchpins,’ the people that everyone misses the most when they leave. It may have been said before, but it is worth repeating: People don’t always remember what you did, but they do always remember how you made them feel.