Connection, Compassion and Even Love at Work

A man and a woman talking at work

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Spreading a little warmth and connection to others at the office could actually improve productivity, not to mention happiness. I’m not talking about a torrid interoffice romance, but the kind of “companionate love” that comfortably expresses caring, affection and compassion for your colleagues. If the very idea makes your toes curl with embarrassment or dread, it’s worth reconsidering how you’re approaching others in your workplace.

Studies have found that, even more than what you do at work, it’s who you do it with that leads to higher levels of engagement. In fact, your relationships with other people are the best guarantee of lowering stress and raising your wellbeing around the office.

Why do other people matter so much?

The truth is you’re hardwired with a biological need for social support. Every time you get to genuinely connect with another person, the pleasure-inducing hormone oxytocin is released into your bloodstream, helping to reduce anxiety and improving your concentration and focus.

Studies suggest each positive interaction you have during your workday bolsters your cardiovascular, neuro-endocrine and immune systems, so the more connections you make over time, the better you function in and out of the office.

But just how much love is required?

The good news for HR departments everywhere, is it seems even brief, non-physical encounters which fuel openness, energy and authenticity with your colleagues can infuse you with a greater sense of vitality and a greater capacity to act.

New research suggests it’s the small moments between coworkers — a warm smile, a kind note, a sympathetic ear — day after day, month after month, that help create and maintain a strong culture of compassion and mutual regard, with employee happiness, increased productivity, and client satisfaction as a esult.

So, what can you do to connect better with others at work?

Professor Barbara Fredrickson, from the University of North Carolina, has discovered it takes just a micro-moment of connection to create an upward spiral of mutual care and companionate love between colleagues. Her research suggests three simple steps.

  • First, the sharing of a positive emotion, like interest, joy, amusement, awe or pride.
  • Secondly, synchronizing your biochemistry and behaviors through making shared eye contact with the person or matching your body gestures or vocal tone to create a moment of positivity resonance causing both brains to light up like a mirror of each other.
  • And finally, a reflective motive to invest in each other’s wellbeing that brings about mutual care.

Simple ways I’ve found to create a micro-moment of connection include:

  • Asking appreciative questions like, ‘What’s going well today?’
  • Performing acts of kindness – it seems this work best if you perform at least five kind acts on one day.
  • Spotting strengths in others – showing up to your interactions with others intentionally looking for the best in them.
  • Expressing gratitude – giving effort-based praise rather than just focusing on the outcomes people are achieving.

With the research predicting positive social connections make you want to learn more, motivate your more than money or power and improve your effectiveness and performance at work, investing in a few more moments of love in your day might be just what gets you promoted.

So who will you start with?

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