It’s Valentine’s Day this week and love is in the air. It’s time to reconnect with those we love in life and work.
“Jenny, did you just say at work?”
I sure did and for the following reason.
We love our partner, our kids, the dog and our family (most of the time). Heck, we sometimes even love our job. So why wouldn’t you want to love your co-workers and your boss too?
Bear with me if you’re now thinking Dr Jenny has gone a bit weird. I’m not singing Kumbaya and dancing around in a long flowing robe or encouraging inappropriate workplace relationships. This is about comradeship, collegiality and caring about others.
We spend roughly one-third of our time awake at work, doing what has to be done, to meet our obligations, complete our tasks and get paid.
Okay. So maybe you’ve noticed the difference in how you feel about things (insert here yourself, your work, or your colleagues) when you get on well with your co-workers, your manager or the boss.
Maybe you are the boss. What have you noticed about your level of impact, influence and engagement when you have good working relationships with your senior executives, the board and others?
We are social beings with a strong need to belong, to feel valued and recognised. When we work with people we like and consider like us, something magic happens to our state of mind, our mental energy, confidence and productivity. We boost our mood, we’re more energised, we’re more committed to the cause and more collaborative.
Strong interpersonal relationships at work boost productivity, performance and happiness. So why not take advantage of the occasion and add a little more love to your workplace because just as John Paul Young sang “Love is in the air.”
What is love anyway?
The science will tell you there’s a neurobiological basis for the phenomenon we call love but naturally it’s how it makes us feel that captures our attention.
Our work relationships revolve around the state of attraction we notice when we are in the presence of someone whose company we appreciate and enjoy, someone we consider a friend or work buddy and importantly can trust.
Our social bonds are linked to the production of the neuropeptide Oxytocin that acts as a precursor to the formation of friendships and reinforces our positive feelings. Whenever our oxytocin levels are boosted by undertaking a social activity this amplifies our emotions and triggers a cascade of events leading to higher levels of serotonin that activate the brain’s reward circuitry resulting in greater happiness.
As they say, one good thing leads to another.
Why this matters, especially in the modern workplace is because one thing I’ve noticed is how too often high stress levels are leading to incivility and downright rudeness. Sure, we live at a time when there is a lot of stress, a lot of uncertainty for our future and a certain degree of frustration experienced when technology and or people let us down. The trouble is not only is this unpleasant to be on the receiving end of and everyone else witnessing it, but it’s also demoralising, demotivating and worse still contagious.
One person starts being narky because they’re upset by something – maybe someone took their parking place this morning, maybe they are worried about their child being off school with a bad ear infection, maybe they’re just feeling everyone is taking them for granted and they are fed up. Whatever the reason, one nark leads to a reciprocal nark and so on that can quickly escalate into all-out office warfare.
This is exactly the time to turn things around, to tap into our humanity and practice showing compassion, love and empathy with our fellow human beings.
Because this is what differentiates us from other species and those technologies we have become afraid of.
If love is missing in action in your workplace or it needs a bit of resuscitation here are a couple of fun and appropriate suggestions to try, that don’t cost the earth but can start to shift mindsets and behaviours towards greater tolerance and kindness.
- Host a breakfast or afternoon tea. It’s time to grab some croissants or cupcakes and share a cuppa with your co-workers.
- Create a wall of appreciation where everyone can post their messages of thanks to those who helped us in some way.
- Tell someone face-to-face WHY you appreciated their actions and say thank you. If face to face is impractical – you’re in the London office and the person you want to say thanks to is in Warsaw, write a handwritten note (and don’t forget to send it!)
- Organise a team or office event to raise funds for a favourite charity or organisation. Doing something to help others in need not only makes the receiver feel good, we feel good too, bolstering our social connection and positive mood.
- Perform one R.A.O.K (random act of kindness) every day – bring someone a cup of coffee without them asking or help someone carry their stuff. It doesn’t have to be huge or earth-shattering, just a nice thing to do for someone else for no other reason than because you can.
Loving your work and the people you work with boosts our happiness, sense of fulfilment and enables us to lead richer lives.