We spend a large chunk of our time at work, possibly chatting to our colleagues more than our loved ones.

Most people during their careers will experience the good and the bad when it comes to office environments, from deadly silence to raucous banter, or tense and serious to relaxed and happy.

Businesses which care about their staff will strive to create a happy workforce who feel part of an office community.

But how can you achieve this? There are a few simple measures which can be introduced at work to create a sense of community. Not only will this support employees’ mental wellbeing, it will almost certainly result in increased productivity from happy, motivated staff who feel like they belong and are valued.

 

Do something for charity

Encourage staff to work together to organise an event or activity to raise money for charity. Giving to others has all sorts of proven health benefits, from reducing stress, combating depression and providing a sense of purpose. It is also a way for staff to work together as a team for the greater good of others. You may find that employees have skills which they don’t get to use in their day-to-day job, and charity work could enable them to develop these, helping them feel more fulfilled at work.

Allow staff to decide which charity to support so they take ownership and feel passionate about the cause. They will feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment when their fundraising efforts are a success, and feel part of a community working together for a shared purpose.

 

Consider the office layout

Have you ever worked in an office where the layout of the furniture felt segregated, or too open-plan? Different offices will have different needs when it comes to layout of the desks and furniture. Some might require staff to easily communicate within their teams, while others might need areas of private space for sensitive conversations. Whatever the needs, the layout needs some careful consideration to ensure that everyone is happy, and to encourage a feeling of community.

Simply rearranging the desks could encourage people to communicate and build relationships with each other, which all works towards a sense of community within the workplace.

If you are thinking of relocating your office, MovePlan can help with the logistics of this, freeing up an employees’ time to plan the new layout.

 

Strive for a happy workforce

Being happy at work has all sorts of benefits, not just for employees, but business as well. And part of that happiness is likely to stem from the feeling of belonging to a work community.

Listen to what staff need and want; take time to communicate with them; involve them in decision making; regularly hold one-to-ones; and ensure they are thanked for their efforts and hard work. It might sound like common sense, but often we can be so busy it can be easy to forget and neglect one of the most important parts of a business – the staff. Without them, the business wouldn’t function, so take time to make sure their needs are met, and in return, they will no doubt work harder.

 

Introduce exercise

According to a YouGov poll, three in five staff experience mental health issues because of work. Exercise is one of the key ways to reduce stress and relieve depression, and is also a great way of socialising and bringing people together to create a community. So, why not incorporate it into the working day?

Facilitate a lunchtime walking club, where members go outside for a brisk stroll, not only offering them the chance to exercise and enjoy the outdoors, but also chat with colleagues. Or, consider launching an after-work ‘couch to 5k’ club, building up staff fitness levels until they are ready to participate in an organised 5k event. Working together with the support of colleagues will encourage the group to continue, and the sense of fulfilment and pride when they complete the 5k as a team will foster an enormous sense of community spirit.

You could even consider employing someone to hold weekly exercise classes such as yoga to help everyone unwind at the end of the working week.

 

Communicate

This is possibly one of the most important ways to ensure that staff feel part of a community. Research carried out by data protection company Bluesource shows that 44 per cent of employees want a wider adoption of internal communication tools, while businesses with effective communication practices were more than 50 per cent more likely to report employee turnover levels below industry averages. To add to this, productivity is believed to improve by up to 25 per cent in organisations where employees feel connected.

Effective and frequent communication really is vital, and will ensure staff feel part of the work community.

There are various ways to communicate with staff, from internal newsletters to email updates. However, don’t underestimate the importance of face-to-face meetings as well, which enable staff to respond to any information communicated with them, and deepen the sense of community at work.

A staff council can create a link between those in charge and the workforce, helping everyone feel involved and able to have a say. Staff councils take up issues on behalf of their colleagues, ensuring that the entire workforce feels part of the work community, and is able to have their views heard.