Sure, you’re friendly at work. You say a quick hello as you pass colleagues’ desks and smile during meetings. And—that’s pretty much it.
You see your co-workers every day, but how well do you actually know them? Spoiler: Not really at all. Does it matter? Actually, it does. Because building relationships at works increases happiness and productivity.
You first idea for fixing this may be grabbing coffee together, but in all honesty, you really don’t want to. At best, you find a table and mostly hear the other person while you sip a $5 latte. At worst, you wait in line, stand in a corner, shout, and if you’re on a budget or don’t really like coffee, feel like you’re wasting time and money.
Listen, if your main goal is to step outside the office and grab a latte—don’t let me stop you. By all means, go for it; and while you’re at it, invite a colleague to come along.
But if you’re goal is to actually get to know the other person, choose one of these less predictable options.
1. Ask Him or Her a Random Question
Think fast: What are three things you discuss with your colleagues? If you answered work, the weather, and lunch, you need some fresh topics.
A quick internet search can yield some quirky and random questions, like, “What TV host would you want to interview you?” Or, “If you could have a picnic on any mountaintop in the world, where would you go?” Personally, I like this list of questions.
Try using these as ice breakers. It’ll get you out of your shells and help you connect.
2. Get Some Fresh Air
Starbucks isn’t the only destination outside of your office walls. So, skip the coffee, and schedule your next meeting outside the office.
Better yet, invite a colleague to join you on your next walk. Just a small change of scenery can bring with it a welcome change of perspective. It’s a double win to see the local neighborhood, especially if you don’t live close to your office. And hey, even if your walk just involves the parking lot, it’s still a different meeting view than usual.
3. Celebrate Birthdays
This is a way to bond with all of your colleagues—after all, everyone has a birthday! It’s easy; just take five minutes to approach someone on her special day and wish her well. If you work together closely, bring a small token like a balloon or cupcake and strike up a conversation about how she celebrates. Even a card goes a long way.
4. Find Shared Hobbies
Love The Bachelor, like me? Odds are some of your colleagues do, too.
If you find out who, you'll have an instant conversation starter and find yourselves in the break room—or on Slack—every Tuesday morning rehashing the most ridiculous moment of last night's episode. From there, it won't seem so out of blue to send the other person a message, and you'll start to really open the lines of communication.
Seriously, sharing your hobbies—no matter how quirky you may think they are—can help you learn a lot about each other!
5. Mix Up Your Communication
Do you always communicate with your colleagues the exact same way? Is your go-to email, or meeting in person, or chatting on the phone? Whatever it is, this week, plan to mix it up.
For example, do you have a co-worker who is pop culture obsessed? Respond to his next great idea with a positive GIF. For the person who’s always on Twitter, tweet some praise. Obviously, you shouldn’t respond to your boss with a series of emojis—but feel free to get creative when it’s appropriate.
6. Start an Article Club
I love going to bookstores and seeing the newest “it” novel sitting pristinely on the shelf, or reading book reviews online. But taking the next step and actually reading is a different story, which is why I rarely join book clubs.
An easier commitment for me was an article club, where people agree on a quick read on a common interest topic and then discuss it over lunch. It’s fun, easy to plan, and won’t leave you staying up late at night when you’re in desperate need of some shuteye.
All of these options cost less than five dollars, take less than 30 minutes, and are more exciting than a traditional coffee date. So, give them a shot and watch your relationships with your co-workers blossom.