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Building Meaningful Relationships

In recent years, a startling trend has emerged: We are feeling lonelier than ever, especially at work. BetterUp reports that 69% of U.S. employees are not satisfied with the opportunities for connection in their workplace. This is especially troubling because most of us spend a majority of our time at work, surrounded by colleagues and clients alike. In our current world, work environments serve as important spaces that can bring people together.

In a special Annual Wellness Summit preview webcast, “Building Meaningful Relationships at Work,” CEO and leadership expert Kristen Hadeed discusses the importance of building meaningful relationships and how a focus on workplace relationships can positively influence organizational culture.

The Importance of Workplace Relationships

As Hadeed points out, “We’re human, it’s all coming with us.” Just as workplace successes and stressors can affect our mood, what we experience outside of work can also dramatically affect our attitude, focus, productivity and creativity. In her organization, Hadeed has found a direct correlation between the quality of team relationships and innovation, collaboration, communication, efficiency and effectiveness. Interpersonal relationships both inside and outside of work are an important aspect of the work-life balance. Therefore, it is essential for organizations to create environments where work and life can be in harmony. Workplaces that do not offer employees the support and flexibility they need are likely to struggle with attracting and retaining staff.

Cultivating Relationships

When cultivating meaningful relationships at work, it is important to establish trust. In her organization, Hadeed begins meetings with a 1–10 check-in, where participants share how they feel about work and life outside of work that day. This exercise creates trust through small but meaningful personal connections that build empathy, compassion and understanding between employees. It is key for leadership to pave the way to trust by modeling this vulnerability and by creating opportunities for peer dialogue and support.

In a workplace where leadership may not be exhibiting these behaviors or creating space for relationships to develop, there are still ways individuals can make an impact. These situations allow individuals the opportunity to model the behaviors and attitudes they wish to see. Try being vulnerable and sharing what is going on in your life with coworkers, celebrating taking time off, or loudly using your employee benefits. These things take courage, but “walking the walk” in terms of workplace culture permits those around you to do the same.

Maintaining and Evaluating Relationships

Relationships are not finished once they have been built. Deeper, more meaningful relationships require consistent care and maintenance. To strengthen relationships both inside and outside of the workplace, Hadeed suggests using the concept of the emotional bank account from Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This “bank account” operates similarly to a financial bank account, where deposits and withdrawals affect the total balance. Think about the balance of your emotional relationship with each person you regularly work with. Are there any relationships, or “accounts” that need more investment? If you recognize a relationship that has been neglected, think of ways to invest your time intentionally. It doesn’t take much—Sometimes asking about a coworker’s day or grabbing a coffee together can do the trick.

This relationship maintenance is especially important for those in virtual work environments, where factors like distance and differing schedules make developing meaningful relationships particularly difficult. Making the effort to engage with coworkers virtually is essential to maintaining a positive and supportive virtual workplace. Meeting and discussing projects over video allows individuals to see each other’s facial expressions and body language, which creates stronger interpersonal connections. If video calls aren’t possible, even hearing a colleague’s voice over the phone can have more of a positive impact than relying on email or other written communication alone.


The most important step toward making your organization a place where meaningful relationships are built is to prioritize relationship building. By listening to the needs of those around you and engaging with others intentionally, workplace relationships can thrive.  Attend Kristen Hadeed’s keynote session at the 2024 Annual Wellness Summit to learn more tactics for creating a culture of positive relationships in your workplace and having courageous conversations at work. This year, WELCOA and the National Wellness Institute (NWI) have joined forces to present the Annual Wellness Summit, August 26-29 in Chicago.


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Rebecca Plier is diving headfirst into the wonderful world of employee benefits and workplace wellness. As a PR/Communications Specialist at WELCOA’s partner organization, the International Foundation, Rebecca shares essential information on educational programming, emerging benefits research data, member resources, and so much more. To maintain balance, she enjoys art journaling and attending regular yoga sessions.