Six tips to keep the small-company feel as your business grows

When a company grows and starts to get over 20 or so employees, it can start to lose that ‘small company feel’. People might stop talking to each other, and you can lose the close-knit culture and co-operative energy your success was originally built on.

By encouraging more internal interaction between – and within – departments, your employees could feel more passionate and connected to the business. After all, when employees spend almost as much time with colleagues as their family, it’s important to their wellbeing that they feel comfortable and connected with the people they work with.

The better your employees know each other, the better the communication might be, and the smaller the company could feel even as the staff population grows.

Here are some ideas to help maintain a close knit culture amongst your employees:

Grow your staff but keep your teams small
Your company began with small numbers of staff and small departments. These departments were likely so small that the lines where one department ended and another began were sometimes unclear. This kept internal communication at the forefront of every project your team undertook.

As you grow it’s important to hold on to this part of your company’s culture. Consider keeping your departments small and close knit by building multiple project-based teams within each department.

Encourage hot desking
As well as helping to be an efficient use of space, hot desking could be a fantastic way to avoid the ‘turf divisions’ that might develop as your workforce grows.

You’ll be amazed at how much knowledge can be shared by over-hearing other colleagues go about their daily work, and it’s much easier to talk to people you sit next to than people on the other side of the office.

Encourage eating together
Grabbing a sarnie at your desk is a habit that seems to have infiltrated UK office culture. Sure, there are days when you just need to get that extra 20 minutes back, but taking the time to sit down and eat together could be a fantastic way to encourage internal dialogue.

A lot of office culture is set by precedent. So if you have a communal social/eating area, consider leading by example and eating together with colleagues at least two lunch breaks a week, and others may follow.

Another way to encourage employees to eat together is to start a monthly ‘grub club’ where everyone brings in a dish to share.

Show and tell sessions
Once a month, or at least once a quarter, get everyone in the office together for 15 minutes. Use this time to get one or two people from specific departments or teams to explain what they do and talk through an exciting project they’re working on currently.

So often the people that work in finance don’t really understand what the marketing team do, for example, but never have the time or the space to ask.

This could be a great way to build mutual respect and understanding, and help build relationships and better collaboration between employees and departments that may not get to spend much time together.

Ban email when you can talk
We’re all guilty of hiding behind emails when we could pick up the phone or walk 10 meters across the corridor.  This article from the Harvard Business Review explains three really important ways that an over-reliance on email damages internal communication between employees.

Community building events and teams
During years as a startup, you could easily hold events for your staff, sometimes on the fly, such as quiz nights, drinks and parties. These activities helped promote team building and allowed your employees to get to know one another in a social, non-business setting. To help keep that small close knit feel as the company grows, it’s perhaps even more important to continue to offer these social opportunities, even if they take a bit more organisation now.

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Why not designate someone from each department to arrange a different social each quarter? See our other article on alcohol free social ideas for inspiration. Or how about encouraging a company netball, football, softball, table tennis, or darts team? There’s bound to be local league somewhere near you. There’s nothing like a bit of team competitive spirit to get people bonding. And for others that prefer to watch rather than play sport, how about doing a company sweepstake for big sporting events or setting up a company fantasy football league? These things can prove an easy source of office banter that’ll turn colleagues into friends.

This content originally appeared on Benenden’s workplace hub where employers can find a range of related articles to help with their health and wellbeing strategy.