What do you do at work that could possibly be more important than sharing birthday cake with your office colleagues?
Lots of things? You’re probably right, but that doesn’t mean that eating cake together isn’t important.
Strong social connections make people feel happier
There have been many studies over the years that demonstrate that strong social connections make people feel happier, which in turn can make them physically healthier and all of this should result in improved performance at work. An individual who has regular, positive social interactions at work is more likely to stay in their role and in the business for longer and take fewer sick days, which of course can only be beneficial for the business. Not only that, but these social connections typically result in higher levels of employee engagement, which usually translates into fewer safety incidents and a team that is more open to change.
You’ve probably noticed yourself that when you take the time to get to know your colleagues, you usually find out that they’re pretty awesome people! Everyone comes to work with their own history, background and experience and these shape the way that they view the world, your team and your specific work duties. And it’s important to remember that this is a good thing! The more diverse views that you can obtain while working on a project, the more likely it is to be successful.
That new young person who’s afraid to speak up in meetings because they’re scared that they might say the wrong thing or embarrass themselves in front of the more experienced people – they’ve actually got some unique and valuable knowledge that you might be missing out on if they’re not comfortable around you. How can they get comfortable? By spending time with you – socially – realising that you’re an actual person and you’re not that intimidating.
That more mature person who always plays devil’s advocate with every idea – they’re really useful too! With their knowledge and experience, they’re probably done all of this before in some form or other and can see some of the potential pitfalls that you might not have considered. How do you get this person and that shy new person speaking the same language? By allowing them to get to know each other outside of their formal roles in the business.
During covid lockdowns we missed the social interactions with our colleagues
During the many covid lockdowns we all spent more time than usual at home where we largely missed the social interactions with our colleagues. Sure, you probably spoke on the phone or through Teams, but it’s not really the same as the informal chat in person. Many people have commented that when you pick up the phone to call a work colleague, you feel that the call needs to serve a purpose – a “reason” for the call. And as such, you miss some of that casual “how was your weekend?” or “how was your game of basketball?”, which is the type of interaction that makes us feel more connected with people. When we know a bit more about our colleagues’ passions, hobbies and family, then we feel a greater sense of “team”. And when we feel a greater sense of “team” we feel more valued, more appreciated and more loyalty to that team.
Shared cake (or a shared meal) brings everyone together
You can certainly achieve these social interactions while getting your coffee or tea in the morning, but this only occurs if you happen to arrive in the work kitchen at the same time as someone else. And that’s why sharing team birthday cake is important – because it brings everyone together and ensures that at least a brief social interaction occurs with the whole team. And that banter while someone is organising some plates and the knife to cut the cake – that might be the difference between success or failure of your new project. Regular team lunches are also a great way to spend time with each other and should be encouraged! Happy employees make the workplace more enjoyable for everyone and you’ll always be happier at work if you like the people you work with!
So next time someone makes fun of me for organising another cake, take note – I’m doing it because I care about our employees. I care that they’re happy, connected and . . . enjoying just a little sugar!