Connecting with your colleagues: The most important thing you can do at work.

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In the “before times” when we were all at the office, I always started out my week the same way. Monday mornings, I would take deliberate time to do “rounds” and catch up with my colleagues and work friends.

Some may see time spent catching up with colleagues, asking them about their weekends, or learning about projects happening elsewhere in the organization that I’m not involved with as a waste of time. I don’t see it this way. In fact, I’d argue that the time I spend connecting with my colleagues is the most valuable thing I do during the week.

Natural connections with your colleagues increase happiness.

I find that I am genuinely happier at work when I am connecting with my colleagues. And when I am happy at work, I am primed to be more engaged, more productive, and more likely to look for opportunities for growth and career advancement inside an organization. This isn’t something unique to me; the data is pretty convincing that having friends at work increases happiness, engagement, and retention.

There’s some recognition that connections with colleagues are important, which is probably the justification for work happy hours. However, standing in a room making small talk with a beer, cocktail or, better yet, a mocktail is much less valuable than asking a colleague how her weekend scuba diving excursion went or spending 15 minutes helping a colleague use his credit card points to book a vacation.

Connections between people at work are not just about feeling good; they are good for business.

Much of the value that organizations create happens because of connections between people. If that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t have organizations; we’d all be more effective as solopreneurs.

It isn’t siloed knowledge about an industry, a key customer relationship, or expertise in a technical process that is key to creating value. The most interesting opportunities are found at the intersections between relationships and technical knowledge. I’ve found that by creating connections at work, I can be the person who facilitates these value creation opportunities.

Building connections with your colleagues likely the greatest way you can increase your effectiveness at work.

When asked how to increase productivity, most people immediately talk about putting in longer hours. But logging more hours at work is probably the least effective thing that you can do to increase your productivity because it provides at best a linear boost to your productivity. More often, it induces burn-out, injury, diminished returns, and disengagement. There’s lots of research and even book covering the history of the negative effects of long hours at work.

In contrast, connecting with your colleagues produces network effects, which increase your effectiveness at least exponentially maybe even factorially! (Yes, I’m a nerd.) In every case, more and stronger connections with your colleagues mean that you have the ability to access talent, insight, and help that can help you solve hard problems and it gives your colleagues and friends at work the same advantage. More connections make everyone more effective.

Great work connections happen organically. Zoom isn’t the same.

Perhaps the biggest loss to our work culture when everyone went remote during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic was these connections that happen at the office. Yes, I enjoy the flexibility of working from anywhere and sometimes it is nice to be able to shut of everyone in my home office and crank on a project, but I do miss the connections I was able to make organically. The chance meetings while figuring out the complexities of making the corporate coffee or while walking through a lab and asking, “What’s that?” don’t happen when everyone is remote. A scheduled 10-minute Zoom catch up just isn’t the same.

Connections with colleagues are incredibly valuable, both personally and professionally, but sometimes we get busy addressing more urgent issues and don’t take the time to build those connections. This week, spend some extra time to connect with your colleagues. It might be the most effective thing you do this week.

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