“We’re heading out for wings and beer after work. You coming?”
Great, you think. Another night of fried food and sitting around.
You smile with all the enthusiasm you can muster. “You bet. See you there!”
What else can you do? The bar is where your coworkers offer advice on tough projects. It’s where the boss spills details on the company’s future. It’s also where everyone relaxes and gets to know each other.
Social events are one of the best ways to develop relationships with coworkers. Yet many workplaces fall into the trap of doing the same, unhealthy social events again and again. Trivia night at the bar, appetizers at Chili’s, or Taco Tuesday can be fun, but they aren’t exactly good for your waistline.
For those of you who want to socialize, but would rather not partake in the same old unhealthy activities, taking the initiative in sparking healthy social events is crucial. It may seem daunting, but you might find that your coworkers are just waiting for someone else to take the lead.
Read on for strategies, tips, and tricks for getting new, healthy social events off the ground and onto the social calendar.
The Benefits of Positive Relationships with Coworkers
Building strong, positive relationships with coworkers has several important benefits. In many fields, networking plays a key role in climbing the ladder. A coworker who likes you is a coworker who will say positive things about you to your boss and who will stick up for you if something goes wrong on a project.
In the long term, you never know when you might find yourself looking for a new job. A large network of positive relationships means you have more contacts to reach out to for references or job leads. When applying for jobs (or a promotion), a former coworker who remembers you fondly is much more likely to put in a good word than a coworker with whom you rarely spoke.
Beyond the career bump, developing relationships with coworkers has important health and wellness benefits. Just like our children, adults enjoy psychological and social perks from genuine friendship, including in the workplace. In general, having satisfying relationships with friends is associated with better life satisfaction. You will feel more comfortable at work if you have someone to share war stories with, even if you are just commiserating about the copier jamming again.
Importantly, research demonstrates that relationship quality matters more than quantity. This means that building strong bonds with a few, close-knit coworkers is a better investment than having shallow relationships with everyone in the building.
Healthy Social Events That Can Turn Coworkers into Friends
The first and most important decision is selecting an activity that is healthy, but that also helps build relationships. Luckily, there is a simple formula: the seeds of friendship are planted when two or more people share fun or memorable experiences together.
Your job is to offer healthy suggestions that lead to good times. Think of events that are fun or that would make good stories. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Start a Company Sports Team. Are your coworkers into basketball, softball, volleyball, or soccer? Sports leagues are relatively inexpensive, incredibly fun, and make socializing a breeze. Nothing develops a bond faster than setting a coworker up for a spike or hooking them up with a bounce pass for a layup. For bonus points, set up a friendly competition with a rival company or with other groups in your building. Having a common “enemy” (meant in the friendliest terms, of course) makes for great stories and is as powerful as cement in building healthy relationships.
- Board Game Nights. Okay – board games may not be particularly active. However, they are good for your brain, and they sure beat another round of bar food or another pitcher of cheap beer. Pick shorter social games that spark conversation (think Cards Against Humanity or Wits and Wagers, not Monopoly or Risk). Consider serving healthy snacks and rotating hosts to keep things fresh. Set things up right, and your coworkers will be begging you to host another one.
- Yoga Club. If you have a stressful job, your body may be producing excess cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and too much of it over time can lead to weight gain, heart disease, and problems with concentration. Yoga is a fantastic stress reduction technique. Consider starting a yoga club at work: invite your coworkers to spend 20 minutes a few times a week practicing simple yoga poses before work or during lunch hour. Thousands of free videos are available online to get you started. Yoga won’t get you too sweaty for your 3:30 budget meeting, either.
- Walking Breaks. A short, fifteen to thirty minute walk will have positive effects on your health, well-being, and productivity. Walking outside may be particularly beneficial, since it will help you get your daily dose of Vitamin D. Encourage everyone to leave their phones inside to keep conversation flowing. What better way to get to know someone than sharing fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time walking and talking?
Tips for Sparking Your Healthy Social Event
Once you have an idea, it’s time to get the event off the ground. Use the following strategies to give your healthy social event the best chance at becoming a recurring success:
- Start Small. It is probably best to start small by inviting a few coworkers who you think are especially likely to participate. A small group is easier to please, easier to schedule around, and generally easier to plan for. Once you’ve got a small group of die-hards attending regularly, you can start thinking about how to expand.
- Stick to a Schedule. People are creatures of habit. Your coworkers will be more likely to participate if they can predict when your event will occur. Pick a good day and time that has the fewest conflicts (you won’t be able to accommodate everyone, and that is okay). Then, stick to the schedule to help your event become a regular part of the office routine.
- Spread the Word. Every company’s culture is different, and yours will dictate how best to tell others about your healthy social activity. In some workplaces, a friendly email is the best way to spread the word. In others, emails are quickly deleted, and those who send them aren’t exactly beloved. A flier in the break room might be a safe bet, especially if there aren’t already a thousand old fliers already on the wall. If your event costs money, ask if management will kick in a percentage of the cost for first-timers (pitch it as a part of a “health in the workplace” or “teambuilding” initiative). Once you’re started, organically grow your numbers by asking current participants to each invite a friend.
Healthy Relationships are the Key to Success
Healthy relationships with coworkers are the bedrock of a happy workplace. They help build and secure your career, make the workplace more enjoyable, and have many wellness benefits to boot.
Your challenge, as a fitness-minded individual, is to steer your coworkers away from the same-old, unhealthy socializing opportunities and towards healthy chances to get to know one another. By selecting a fun activity, starting small, sticking to a schedule, and spreading the word, you can maximize the chance that your healthy social event becomes the talk of the office.
So take the leap: show your coworkers how to make friends and socialize without compromising their health.