Business professional having virtual meeting with coworkers
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize just how important relationships are. Healthy relationships can reduce stress, promote positive behaviors and give us a greater sense of purpose and well-being. I admit that I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family, friends and employees.
It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, though, that I realized just how vital healthy relationships are to my personal and professional lives. Given the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy for relationships to hit a sour note. These seven pieces of musical advice can help bring them back into tune:
1. Assume “We’re Gonna Be Friends.”
Having work friends is vital. A LinkedIn study likewise found that, globally, 46% of professionals consider work friends to be an important factor in their overall happiness.
From the outside, that makes sense: If you enjoy working with others, you’ll look forward to collaborating with them. But there’s a little more to it than that.
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“People are more creative and productive when they experience more positive inner work life,” explains Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business School professor and coauthor of The Progress Principle. “And one of the things that contributes to positive inner work life is a sense of camaraderie with teammates and close co-workers — a sense of bonding and mutual trust.”
On the other hand, university researchers have found that work friendships are a mixed blessing. They can be distracting, mainly because of impromptu discussions. They can also present emotionally taxing situations — like if your BFF at work receives a promotion and is now your superior.
The best way to avoid these potential conflicts is to establish clear boundaries. Getting friendly with each other doesn’t mean that you need to pry into each other’s personal lives.
2. Show Some “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
A key component of healthy and productive relationships is being respectful of another person’s time. Whether it’s a family member, friend or employee, that holds true.
If you are catching up with a friend for lunch, for example, don’t arrive 30 minutes late. When you have a team meeting scheduled from 2-2:30 p.m., don’t keep attendees longer than the allotted time.
While this may not have been top of mind previously, it’s more important than ever to be considerate of others’ time. When you don’t, not only is it disrespectful; it also disrupts everyone’s flow, keeps people from moving forward and prevents them from achieving a healthy work-life balance.
3. Know When to “Get Off of My Cloud.”
Last week, I was swamped. As a result, I wasn’t as prompt in responding to people as I normally am. Yet I was still able to get back to everyone in a timely manner.
For one acquaintance, that wasn’t good enough. In the course of a day, this person messaged me at least six times. To me, this was excessive — especially considering that he wasn’t even facing an emergency. He just had a question that could have waited.
I don’t mean to speak ill of this individual. In fact, I’m trying to be empathetic and put myself in his shoes. His question might not have been important to me, but it clearly was to him.
Still, after a couple of messages, I began considering him a bit of a nuisance. Suffice it to say I wasn’t motivated to put him at the top of my to-do-list.
The point of this anecdote is to illustrate the importance of boundaries. That means everything from providing autonomy to not bombarding people with messages — particularly when they’re not at work.
4. Get by “With a Little Help From [Your] Friends.”
Take it from Ringo: Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, help from friends is essential. When you notice that someone is struggling — maybe they’re ill or having difficulty managing their time — lend a helping hand.
You could simply listen to their concerns, help them get to the root of their time management problems or take on some of their workload if you have the capacity.
If you’re in a sticky situation yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just remember not to make someone feel obligated to give you a hand because you’ve helped them in the past. Instead, reach out to members of your support network when you feel like you’re underwater.
5. Strive to Manage “Distractions.”
Sir Paul McCartney once sang, “And the things we’d do if we could only be through with these distractions.”
Although Paul has a point, distractions are inevitable. Instead of wishing them away, find ways to manage them as well as possible.
For this, lean on your calendar. Create a team calendar so everyone can see each other’s availability. This way, you won’t be interrupting another team member when they have blocked off a chunk of time for focused work. If nothing else, share your own calendar with others so that they know when you are — and aren’t — available.
6. When Necessary, “Call Me.”
Maybe you’re in a pinch, or you simply want to avoid endless email threads. When it’s urgent, do as Debbie Harry commands: Pick up the phone and call.
To be courteous, ask in advance to make sure that it’s an appropriate time for a quick chat. And encourage others to do the same if they ever need to contact you at the last minute.
Even if you have set your phone on do not disturb, or even silent, you can allow certain contacts to ring through. This feature is available on both Android and iOS, and it can come in handy when you need to be notified of something like a family emergency.
7. Don’t forget to “Praise You.”
Recall a time when you received or gave a compliment. It felt pretty good, right?
That’s because feeling valued and appreciated is a fundamental human need. According to psychotherapist Marcia Naomi Berge, mutual appreciation is the foundation of relationships. The reason is, it’s what encourages us to cooperate with others.
When we receive a compliment, it stimulates the same part of the brain that lights up when we get a monetary reward. It should be no surprise, then, that research shows praising employees boosts productivity.
When giving a compliment, make sure that it’s sincere and specific. And when you receive a compliment, do so with grace.
Healthy relationships are the bedrock of a good life. Instead of taking them for granted, fortify them. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge others’ accomplishments or ask for help. The late Bill Withers was right: “We all need somebody to lean on.”