Healthy working relationships at work

David Kentish believes that analysing unhealthy relationships in the workplace is the first step towards a healthy workplace agenda. Here he discusses how balance and awareness are key to successful relationships at work.

When discussing how healthy relationships in the workplace are achieved and what they look and feel like, I think that the starting point to reaching that goal, is to first examine unhealthy relationships in the workplace and how damaging they can be to an individual’s mental and physical health, not just affecting their performance at work, but also impacting negatively on their families and friends. Pressure, stress and anxiety in a working environment that has the potential to become toxic, don’t dissipate when you finish your day, you take those feelings home with you!

I start here because when you ask people what their working relationships are like, the first words that spring forth would not be ‘I have a really healthy relationship with all the people at work’. In most cases, people usually talk about dealing with difficult personalities, office politics, and general frustrations with their job. Anyone who has been working for ten years or more will have no doubt experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s also not feasible to say that you will get along with everyone you work with… The trick is in being able to develop good relationships into healthy ones.

As more people work remotely, the way that they engage with their colleagues is changing. In many instances, people may not even get to meet their teams face to face. So how does that engender a healthy working relationship? Well, the key is a company’s shared values. Having a set of company values, which are shared by all, can help bring people closer. Get the basics right, make sure your recruitment selection is part of the value chain. Get the teams to meet on a regular basis – this includes your office based and your remote workers, so they get to know each other, not just as a work colleagues, but as individuals, on a human and emotional level. A shared set of values forms the basic recipe for successful relationships at work. You can then add in additional ingredients that will help to maintain and sustain these relationships. Having a mentoring, coaching and support system, which is congruent with the values that are instilled within your staff, helps to reinforce the shared goals of your organisation and unite people on common ground.

Training also plays a huge role in creating supportive, sustainable relationships at work. Firstly, make sure that everyone has the right technical training so that they remain compliant and confident in their role, and that they fully understand what their role is within the company. It’s then important to make sure that they understand how good communication and collaboration between teams and departments is essential to helping them get their job done well. And how their behaviour at work affects those around them. Having the right training in these areas will enable people to form better relationships with their manager, line managers and counterparts regardless of where they are working from.

If you have a gym and healthy dining on site, the gym will encourage people to exercise together and is an excellent way of helping people to get to know each other. Likewise, dining is an inherently social act; if people are encouraged to move away from their desk towards a group canteen or eating area then forming new connections is made much easier.

But what happens when you have a large percentage of your staff working remotely, could there be a way through the regular team sessions and training of bringing these healthy lifestyle ideas to everyone’s attention as being beneficial, not just from a work perspective, but by suggesting that people should continue maintaining health and healthy relationships beyond the workplace.

‘Work life blend’ is a phrase, which I think accurately describes the new normal way of working. Getting that blend right, is a combination of all the above.

Because maintaining healthy relationships at work is all about balance and awareness. A thoughtless act, which breaches trust or an over-reaction from a manager, inappropriate behaviour not dealt with properly at the time, things that will, if not corrected swiftly, erode the basics of these relationships.

Healthy working relationships are no different to a marriage. A successful marriage takes time, effort and understanding of the other person. You have to work at it.

The clue to companies getting it right in the workplace, is in the title.

This article originally appeared in HR Review.

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