Cultivating Sincere Connections: 5 Easy Tips

The average employee spends 2,080 hours at work each year. And that number is much higher for the majority of hard-working professionals. So, why wouldn’t we try to enjoy that time as much as possible?


In this day and age, it’s common knowledge that investing in your employees will produce better results and happier individuals. This is not a blog post about the importance of developing your company’s culture – I think we all understand that. Instead, let’s talk about how. Let’s explore ways to keep morale high and the vibe light. 


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Here are 5 helpful tips for showing appreciation, building relationships, and promoting a positive work atmosphere: 


  1. Don’t overthink it. 

It’s wonderful that professional leaders are recognizing the value of connecting and relating to their employee base. But you don’t always have to throw axes at a brewery or get the whole team in an escape room to connect (not knocking those activities, of course!). 


Make it a point to know about the people you work beside day in and day out. Genuine conversation and active listening go a long way. Don’t take this for granted! You don’t have to have a flashy, modern employee lounge or pay for Starbucks every day to build a strong rapport with your colleagues. Humans look for connection, so work to engage and learn about life outside of the office. 


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Pro tip: If you are even struggling to keep up with your own life, why not keep a social calendar for quick reminders? E.g., “Ask Steph how her dad’s surgery went,” or “Wish Omar good luck on his half-marathon Saturday.” 


  1. Food. It’s so easy… and so good.

We all have to eat – why not maximize that time? You can always treat your team with an ordered lunch or get out of the office to explore restaurants in your area. Keeping a running list of “places we’ve been meaning to try” is a cool way to get your team involved and looking forward to the lunches.


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A lot of cities have food truck rodeos or restaurant tour events. Check to see if there are any food events near you. It’s not only fun to try new cuisines together, but it’s also a great way to support local businesses!


If budget is a concern, plan a day each quarter to sit down and spend lunch together. You don’t have to dine out just to enjoy one another’s company. The act of shutting off and moving away from the computer is the most important part. Make it work for you! 



  1. Outings – but do what works.

Of course, group activities outside of the office are a guaranteed way to change things up and get to know your team. There are a ton of options out there today, and while you certainly can plan something grand and spend a little extra on an outing, there are so many simple ways to spend quality time without breaking the bank or losing an entire day of productivity. 



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Our team does an outing each quarter to keep it fun. We plan the event during normal working hours so no one is asked to use their personal time (this is important). I’ve listed below a few of our past team outings for inspiration: 


  • Burgers and a movie. Really! It’s that simple. Just make sure you pick a place that meets the needs of everyone’s food requirements. 

  • Lemurs! We are located near Duke University’s Lemur preservation. We took a tour before grabbing lunch. It was inexpensive and a nice change from the norm.

  • Pedicures! Yeah, this one’s a little unusual. We are a small team which allows us to do some out-of-the-ordinary activities together. This might not be for everyone, but it was a blast for our group!

  • Mini-golf! Pick a nice day and get outside, get moving, and have a fun time with your team. You can also tie the games to a work-related outcome/reward to inspire some good-natured competition. 

  • Head to the park! Another benefit of working in Durham, NC is our proximity to the beautiful Eno River State Park. One day we grabbed lunch and took a long stroll down a few trails. It was a great way to spark meaningful conversation while enjoying nature and moving our feet. (And it was free!)

  1. Shoutouts.

The best way to ensure your team knows they are appreciated is to say it out loud. At MindSumo we have a weekly meeting every Friday for “shoutouts”. The only purpose for the meeting is to acknowledge something you are proud of from the week and to express gratitude towards a colleague or colleagues who did something noteworthy. It’s rejuvenating to have a meeting that invites only positive discussion!


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You may not have the ability to add another 30-minute meeting into the routine – no problem! There are a ton of little ways to recognize kindness, dedication, and hard work throughout the week.


  • Create a space (Whiteboard? Chalkboard? Large notepad?) for team members to write a shout out. Make sure it’s in a central location so everyone can see it and participate. 

  • Revert back to the classic Post-It note approach! A simple thanks on someone’s desk will be a welcomed surprise.

  • Utilize your company messaging system to give thanks. You may even dedicate a Slack channel (or whichever platform you use) for the sole purpose of commending awesome acts or accomplishments. 


  1. Don’t force it.

The last tip I’ll leave you with is an important one. Lunches together, outings out of the office, and expressions of gratitude and appreciation need to feel like a real treat. Make sure that you stick to what works for your team, your community, and your company’s culture.


Be careful not to apply too much pressure on these experiences, or they may begin to feel like another task added to an already long work week. There is no right or wrong when it comes to engaging with each other and perpetuating a sincere and positive environment at work. Turn to your team and ask them what would be meaningful? What would make them feel valued? Be flexible and communicative! 



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