Current work from home necessities aside, most of us probably spend a lot more active time at the office than we do outside of it. That makes it important to love (or at least really like) what you do, as well as the people you do it with. And while you can’t force friendships among your team members, there are things that you can do to help forge strong relationships among your staff.

Creating a positive work culture is one aspect of fostering strong relationships among your employees. And while you can’t make everyone like each other, there are things you can do that encourage a healthy dynamic that will make everyone enjoy coming to work.

Below, we’ll share our very best tips for creating a work-family so you can get more out of your daily time together.

1. Hire Well

You can always train for skills, but you can’t train someone to be a good fit culturally. While you need to take talent and experience into account when interviewing prospective hires, you should also be vetting candidates for how well they’ll fit into your company culture and the people within it.

Hiring someone who’s a bad fit can cost you, and it can be just as disastrous as hiring someone who doesn’t bring the right skills to the table. Be cognizant of how a potential employee will fit in with your existing team, and make sure that you don’t bring on board anyone who could kill the vibe of the company culture you’ve worked so hard to build.

2. Optimize Your Environment

Your working environment has a major impact on how your employees relate to each other, both physically and socially. Create the perfect office space by designating areas for optimal productivity along with areas for relaxing. Lounges and “zen dens” help employees unwind and take a break when they need to, and they provide an opportunity for people to engage with each other in a more relaxed atmosphere. As a bonus, they’re also a good place to go work when you need to mix it up for a change of pace and scenery.

3. Don’t Try to Force Fun

Forced fun is cringey — and ineffective when it comes to building a work family. If everyone is only hanging out because you require them to, you’ll lose a lot of interest and might end up with team members who aren’t as keen on interacting organically. That doesn’t mean that you should nix fun, team-building activities, like happy hours and coworker sports leagues, but you should gauge interest in certain events before you plan them so that you know your employees are signing up because they want to and not because they feel they have to.

4. Host Monthly Team “Celebrations”

Every month, plan a team lunch at a local restaurant or in the office and use that time together to celebrate big occasions like birthdays and work anniversaries. This isn’t so much forced fun since it’s on work time (and everybody has to eat), but rather an opportunity to get together and talk about something that isn’t related to deadlines, timelines, and bottom lines. If it’s in your budget, get a cake too, since the joy of cake is definitely something everyone can agree on. 

5. Encourage Eating Lunch Together

If you can, emphasize how important it is to step away from your desk at lunchtime and engage with coworkers. Encourage team lunches by having a designated area in the office where people can go to eat and interact with each other without disturbing those who are still at their desks. Make it comfortable to encourage people to stick around and linger a bit instead of just eating and bolting. Lunchtime is a great break in the day and an excellent time for your employees to get to know each other better.

6. Tell Your Team How Much You Value Them

Telling your employees how much you value them is different than giving them feedback. The key to creating a work family is ensuring that everyone feels like a valuable member of the team. Instead of assuming that your team knows how much they matter to you, say it out loud (or in a nicely written email). Make sure that all team members understand how much you appreciate them and how integral they are to helping the company thrive.

Be specific when voicing your appreciation. Call on instances in which they made you proud, pulled through for other coworkers, or tried really hard on a project. Being specific will stick with them and show just how much you care. 

7. Be a Boss People Can Talk To

As the boss, you’re the head of the work-family. You set the tone for how comfortable people feel at work and how they interact with each other. Set a good example by having an open-door policy that allows your employees to talk freely to you and know that they’ll be heard. Be a trustworthy resource for them, so they know that you care and want to be there for them. 

No one likes a boss or business owner who is unapproachable and intimidating. Be the boss you wish you had, and your whole office will feel more relaxed and at ease.

A work-family doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen on its own either. Take active steps to foster camaraderie among your team, and strong relationships should follow.