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11 Ideas on How to Improve Teamwork in the Workplace

how to improve teamwork in the workplace

When your employees are happy, you can tell. There's this energy in the office. A positive hum that can be felt throughout the building and reaches your customers. Business is booming!

Of course, when your employees aren't happy... that's even more obvious.

There's a heaviness in the air that you can feel. There's no laughter, no smiles, no new ideas being tossed around. Most of the communication between coworkers is negative: blaming, shaming, and complaining. They're never happy. They are nitpicky, pointing fingers, and stepping on one another to get ahead. Absenteeism is up, lateness has become an epidemic, and the attitude of negativity has spread. It's gotten so bad that your customers notice the difference.

And oh yeah... your bottom line is starting to suffer.

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Benefits of Teamwork in the Workplace

You have a problem. And if you don't nip this issue in the bud, it's only going to get worse. When employees aren't happy and when they don't feel connected to the company, the mission, and—most importantly—one another, productivity takes a nose-dive. Your business will suffer, and it won't be long before your once-impressive employees have left the company in search of greener pastures.

That's when you find yourself, head in hand, wondering "What happened?"

Teamwork. Or rather the lack of it. You probably didn't even realize it was happening. A slippery slope of "we" to "me" has occurred, and your business no longer fosters a positive environment of collaboration and teamwork. Values have shifted.

But it's not too late. Now that you've identified the problem, it's time to focus your efforts on creating a culture of teamwork: employees working together towards a common goal.

When your employees are working as a team, you'll see a variety of benefits.

  • Morale will be better. They'll be excited to come to work and eager to accomplish their goals.
  • Productivity will be higher. As they work together, tasks will be handled more quickly and efficiently.
  • Creativity will soar. When employees bounce ideas off of one another and brainstorm solutions, innovation will reign.
  • Employees will feel supported and better able to navigate difficult waters (whether at work or in their personal lives).
  • Customer service will be better because employees are willing to work together to solve a problem.

Teamwork doesn’t just benefit your business in the present. You'll attract better talent in the future. Employees want to work in a positive environment with a great culture. Create this, and you'll be able to hire amazing individuals.

11 Ideas on How to Improve Teamwork in the Workplace

Creating (and maintaining) an atmosphere of teamwork in your organization is essential to having happy employees and a thriving business. There are many strategies you can implement to encourage your employees to work as a team.

1. Communicate Your Mission

Do your employees know why they are even there? Do they understand the vision you have for the future and what role they each play in that vision? A mission statement isn't just a sign in the lobby and a page on your website. It's a guiding principle that every employee should understand and embody. This will help them see that they are valuable to the mission and must work together to achieve it.

2. Understand Their Job Duties and Expectations

Do your employees know exactly what they're supposed to be doing? If every employee is not clear on their responsibilities, things will fall through the cracks. When things fall through the cracks, fingers get pointed at one another and your team succumbs to "that was his job" disease. When everyone knows what they are supposed to do, they can take ownership of their responsibilities instead of passing them off on others.

3. Understand Others’ Job Duties

Once they understand what role they play in the whole and what their specific responsibilities are, they need to know how the other employees fit in. No one's duties should be kept a secret, and responsibilities should be decided on and communicated to not just the employee taking lead but everyone on the team. This way, if something falls through the cracks, the team can gently remind the person responsible and offer support if necessary.

4. Treat Employees Equally

Just as everyone has a specific role in achieving the mission, every role is important. From the CEO to the cleaning crew that comes in at night, every individual is important and should be treated with respect.

5. Create a Physical Environment

Do your employees sit in dark, dank cubicles? Are your conference rooms filled with dilapidated furniture and flickering, fluorescent lighting?

If the physical environment screams "You work alone!" your employees will get the message. Instead, consider shared workspaces, half-cubicles (if you even need them at all), bright, airy conference rooms that encourage team meetings, and lounge areas that provide space for break-time chats. You'll be surprised how many problems get solved when employees step away from the problem and have the space to converse.

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6. Spend Time Together Outside of Work

Happy hour exists for a reason. Employees need time outside of work to decompress, bond as human beings (not just as coworkers), and feel like the people they spend the largest part of their lives with can be called "friends." Don't wait for the annual holiday party to round up your team. Schedule optional get-togethers and decide (as a group) where the ideal meeting place would be. Keep in mind that some people are uncomfortable around alcohol, so your best go-to may not be a bar.

7. Embrace Your Differences

Everyone on your team is different. Maybe they come from different religious or cultural backgrounds, have different political leanings, etc. Instead of ignoring the elephant in the room, embrace the fact that it takes all kinds of people to make up the world and your business. Accept them for what they are and encourage them to respect each other because of their differences, not in spite of them.

8. Encourage Brainstorming and Collaboration

Hopefully, you've now provided space for your employees to congregate. Now you'll need to provide time for them to get together and discuss the challenges they are each facing and brainstorm possible solutions for those challenges. Assign projects to a team rather than a single individual and encourage your employees to seek assistance from their colleagues before coming to you. Two brains are better than one. Imagine what they can do with several.

9. Celebrate

You probably already recognize personal achievements, like when your employees hit their goals. However, did you ever think of celebrating and rewarding teamwork? If one employee helps another succeed, they should be recognized for that. If the only thing you reward is individual accomplishment, the only thing you will foster is individual behavior. If you celebrate when your team works together, you'll see more of it. Shift the values from personal accomplishment to team accomplishment.

10. Communicate Openly

Teamwork starts at the top. As a manager or business owner, if you leave your employees out of the loop and fail to communicate what's going on in the business, they'll pick up a "You're on your own" vibe. If you speak openly about what's happening and how they can (all) come together to improve the company, they'll understand that they are supported, appreciated, and necessary.

Related: How to Improve Your Communication Skills With 12 Strategies

11. Participate in Team Building Activities

When employees are given the opportunity to work together to solve challenges outside of the normal scope of their duties, they are able to forge strong bonds. These activities can range from 10-minute exercises in the office to on-site workshops or off-site retreats. These breaks from the everyday grind allow your team to find new ways to work together and may even uncover some skills you never knew they had.

The most important aspect of these activities? Have fun. When employees enjoy the time spent together, they will create lasting bonds that make it easier to work together once they're back in their assigned roles.

How to Promote Teamwork Effectiveness

Cultivating a culture of teamwork is important. However, if you don't take the time and put effort into maintaining it, you'll find yourself right back where you started... surrounded by cranky, unsatisfied employees that have one foot out the door.

Take a look at all of the wonderful strategies you've implemented and schedule time to work on them. As humans, we have a tendency to get comfortable and let all of our positive behaviors (that got us to a good place) slide. Be aware of this and take steps to ensure that you keep up with these strategies. This may include regular meetings to discuss roles and expectations, weekly outings for your staff (bonus if the company picks up the tab), or quarterly team building activities. The more you utilize your calendar, the better off you'll be.

A strong team is one of the biggest indicators of a healthy and productive work environment. Rather than seeing "a culture of teamwork" as something that just happens, put in a conscious effort to make the most out of your employees by encouraging collaboration, mutual respect, and fun. Do this and your business (and everyone in it) will blossom.