Getting people at work to know each other better can be a key to improved working practices.
- People who know each other are more likely to co-operate than strangers.
- People have more opportunity to understand the motivation and needs of colleagues in an informal setting than in formal meetings.
- Face-to-face informal communication is often more effective than formal communication.
How to encourage social meeting
- Install a watercooler. In the USA, reference is often made to “watercooler” conversations – the discussions which take place at the chance meeting of colleagues going to collect a cup of water. The same effect can occur between smokers when there is a ban on smoking in the workplace, as there is in the UK.
- Provide good coffee. One UK university found that more members of staff met across campus after it introduced a coffee bar selling a major coffee shop brand.
- Subsidise lunch in the cafeteria on a daily, weekly, or occasional basis. If good food is provided at a competitive price, it will attract a good number of staff, particularly those who may not want or have time to prepare their own meal in the evening. A college in Gloucestershire provides free lunch for all its staff every day because it finds it to be an excellent way of getting them to meet.
- Introduce a happy half-hour before or after work where staff can meet for a cup of tea or coffee on arriving at the workplace or before setting off for home.
- Provide somewhere to meet. Schools have common rooms for staff not just to provide them with somewhere to pass time between classes, but also because it is a place for them to meet informally.
- Provide tea and coffee or light refreshments immediately before or after formal meetings to encourage people.
- Put on parties. You’ll find lots of ideas for parties on this website. You could have a summer garden party, a Christmas or New Year party, a party to celebrate a significant achievement, parties for children, a fundraiser party for charity.
- Bring in a takeaway if people are working late. It will be much appreciated, give them a short break from the burden of what they are doing, and provide a good opportunity for a casual discussion.