After a review of nearly 1,400 scientific papers and reports from across the globe, researchers from the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, Reading, and Sheffield found evidence that team activities are effective at making us happier at work. All the successful examples they found:
- Involved everyone – including people who might be reluctant to interact in shared activities.
- Had more than a one-off activity and carried on over time – examples ranged from as few as three one-hour workshops to a more extensive programme delivered over several years.
The findings might cause a sinking feeling for employees who wince at the thought of joining their colleagues in an icebreaker, or building a bridge out of rolled up newspaper, in the name of team bonding. But the study found that it doesn’t have to be a big or complex activity to bring benefits. Simply spending time on a shared project, like mentoring programmes, action planning groups, social events, or workshops, all were shown to have positive effects.
Nancy Hey, Director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, explains: “This research backs up our other evidence: people stay in, and go back to, jobs they like with people they like. We are recommending that organisations carry out activities that boost social relations at work, and evaluate their impact.”
Professor Kevin Daniels, who led the research team, says: “Good social relations between workers and between workers and management are amongst the most important factors for well-being at work, resilience, and engagement. The research shows that, with the right intent, it can be quite straightforward to improve social relations at work”.