Solopreneurs and remote employees know that working alone can be challenging.
Many solo professionals struggle with isolation and loneliness, or simply find it hard to focus and concentrate without the input and accountability of being around other people.
And the pandemic only heightened this.
Even if you’ve been working from home long before it became a new trend, the few in-person interactions you had at work likely decreased or disappeared.
Today, people turn to Zoom and Slack for communication and are accustomed to working in isolation.
But what’s this all doing to our ability to connect and communicate? And, how does that lack of interpersonal connection impact your ability to do your best work?
Socializing matters—we need organic connections and time with other people.
This article explores why that is and offers five ways you can boost your interpersonal interactions to thrive at work.
Social Capital, “Weak Ties,” and Why You Need Them
Working from home or by yourself impacts two important types of relationships: weak-tie connections and social capital.
Weak-tie connections are your casual acquaintances. They’re people you interact with, perhaps even regularly, but do not have close personal relationships with. Think of people like the barista you see every morning or the person working the front desk in your office building.
The pandemic wiped out a lot of our weak-tie connections.
Some theorize that losing these relationships has a more significant impact than one might initially think—weak ties connect us to the world at large and, therefore, are psychologically very important.
In contrast, social capital is a concept related more directly to your work relationships. It’s the presence of networks, relationships, shared norms, and trust among individuals, teams, and business leaders.
Unfortunately, the pandemic also decreased this. One study of 5,500+ workers in the United States found that more than 75% of respondents were connecting less frequently with others at work and have smaller networks than they used to.
This decline in both weak ties and social capital is concerning for professionals and companies alike because they’re so important for overall job satisfaction and performance.
Interpersonal connections have a number of positive benefits. By increasing them, you can:
- Decrease stress: Lighthearted and casual interactions can alleviate stress by taking meaningful breaks during the day.
- Increase job satisfaction: Social interactions can improve moods, offer encouragement, and help people feel like they matter, all of which help you love your job more.
- Find a sense of belonging: Connecting with like-minded professionals can help you feel a sense of belonging, somewhere you “belong.”
- Improve work-life balance: Even your social connections that are totally unrelated to work can have a positive impact. This is because it improves work-life balance and leads to overall life satisfaction.
- Focus better: Working in isolation can make it hard to focus. Productivity can suffer with the lack of accountability or distracting household tasks.
- Develop new ideas: Casual interactions throughout the day allow for the exchange of ideas, naturally sparking creativity.
5 Ways to Increase Interpersonal Interactions
To get the benefits of interpersonal interaction at work, you need to purposefully seek opportunities to strengthen both your weak-tie relationships and social capital.
Here are five areas you can address to boost interactions:
1. Evaluate Your Workspace
The first area for evaluation is your workspace. Is it helping you get more connected or leading to further isolation?
Mixing up where you work can make a huge difference to your focus and productivity. It’s why so many people are seeking the “third workplace,” somewhere between their home and the office such as:
- Coffee shops (here are 7 of Hampden’s best!) or restaurants
- Hotels and conference rooms
- Community centers or libraries
- Coworking spaces and flexible offices
To choose the best place to work, you need to consider somewhere that’s relatively distraction-free and that has access to amenities and services that help you do your best work.
Coworking spaces are designed exactly for this reason. You can choose between options like a coworking hot desk membership, dedicated desk, or a private office and have access to the following amenities:
- Excellent Wi-Fi, printing and scanning, and virtual office services
- Coffee and tea
- Diverse spaces, including kitchens, lounges, and phone booths
- Bookable meeting rooms
- Flexible monthly memberships or day pass options
But perhaps the most important thing is that you’ll belong to a community of like-minded professionals.
Whether it’s saying “hi” over a coffee in the lounge or joining other members at an organized event, a coworking space will help build interpersonal connections during the workday.
2. Use Your Breaks Strategically
We all need to take breaks during the day—if you’re not, it’s time to start.
But instead of just eating your lunch while scrolling through social media, use them strategically to connect with other people.
Here are some ideas:
- Take a walk while talking on the phone to a family member or friend.
- Go for lunch with someone.
- Join a workout class with other people.
- Ask a new connection at your coworking space for a coffee.
- Eat in a public, common area so you’re open to connecting with other people.
3. Join a Professional Network
If you want to build your social capital and make more professional contacts, consider joining a professional network in your industry. Some options include:
- Formal professional associations: Here’s a list of Baltimore-based organizations.
- Casual networks: Facebook or organizations like Meetup often have a variety of industry-associated groups or events to join.
- Attend a conference: A multi-day conference is a great way to network with other professionals in your network. You can then stay in contact with them, either informally, or through a formal professional network from the event.
4. Change Your Routine
To increase your weak-tie connections, try changing up your routine so that you see and interact with more people throughout the day. Some ideas for this include:
- Order your coffee at the counter rather than ahead of time on an app.
- Do your chores (i.e., grocery shopping) during the day so you have a break around people.
- Make a point to say “hi” more often and strike up a conversation. This could be to a fellow coworking member, your Uber driver, or your neighbor down the hall.
- Join a group exercise class that meets each week.
- Take your headphones out of your ears and your eyes away from the phone! Keep your body language open so others can approach you for conversation.
These activities can be a supplement to perfecting your morning routine so you start the day off right.
As you purposely change your routine—and mindset to be outgoing—you can increase connections throughout your day-to-day activities.
5. Prioritize Your Social Life
Even if your “9-5” isn’t very social, your “5-9” can be! Focus on building meaningful social connections outside of your work life, as this will help improve overall life satisfaction.
Here are a couple out-of-the-box ideas that can help you meet people and build connections:
- Host a dinner party where everyone has to bring a friend as a guest.
- Volunteer with a cause you care about.
- Go to a board-game cafe or bar with some friends.
- Join a team for a trivia night.
- Be a tourist in your city and join a group tour of a local museum or other attraction.
- Attend a paint night and strike up conversation with those around you.
- Go to the dog park (dog sit for a friend if you need to!).
There are so many options out there—the key is to find something that works for you.
The goal is to intentionally increase social interactions so that you can improve work-life balance. By prioritizing interpersonal connections in your life, you can boost work performance and overall life satisfaction.
Looking for a workplace with like-minded professionals to connect with? Book a tour of Co-Balt today.