We will spend close to 100,000 hours of our life working. Take that in again… One hundred thousand hours.
That is a significant amount of time. These hours may seem particularly unbearable if you lack friendships at work. So when Gallup first introduced the question “Do you have a best friend at work?” to their famous employee engagement surveys, it was no wonder it elicited the most emotional response of all the questions.
What’s so great about a work best friend?
With so much of our lives dedicated to our job, friends provide a simple connection between our personal and professional lives. In other words, a ‘work best friend’ creates a link between our corporate selves and our out-of-office lives, making the workplace feel more human.
There are also many professional benefits to having a close, trusted friend in the office. A great relationship with a coworker promotes better communication among teammates, increases collaboration to find solutions, and opens discussions about long-term goals.
Most notably, having a best friend at work is directly correlated with employee engagement, and by a huge margin. Women reporting they had a best friend at work showed nearly double the rate of engagement (63%) as those employees who did not report having this close friend (29%).
Having a best friend at work positively affects the Employee Experience.
Recent research regarding the Employee Experience suggests that employees today require more than a paycheck. Job seekers expect good benefits, a fulfilling job, recognition for hard work, flexibility in scheduling, and a positive, friendly environment.
With workplace friendships showing a direct correlation to increased feelings of connection, more frequent positive experiences during the day, and lower stress levels, the equation is simple: workplace best friends mean happier employees. In other words, having a close friend at work positively influences your overall employee experience.
The bottom line is undeniable.
The effects of having a best friend at work extend far past employees being happier. According to Gallup data in their 2018 Employee Engagement study, by increasing the number of employees who say they have a best friend at work from just 20% to 60%, the bottom line for organizations could include:
- 36% fewer safety incidents
- 7% more engaged customers
- 12% higher profit
Before you schedule company outings every Tuesday night, there is one more piece of important data: Friendships at work are less likely to result in happier and more engaged employees if the employees do not have a positive relationship with their managers. Employee engagement needs must first be met between an employee and their direct report. If there is a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Workplace Friendships, basic engagement needs (such as knowing exactly what your manager expects of you) are necessary foundations before having a best friend can strongly affect your workplace culture and engagement.
With such a big bottom line at stake, it makes sense to foster an environment where your employees can easily and comfortably create friendships. Here are ten tips to promote friendships within your organization.
Encourage group projects with open communication.
Whether fine-tuning a sales presentation or planning your awards banquet, working in groups can be an excellent space to foster work friendships. Pro tip: to ensure success, make sure to outline specific expectations for each member of the group, and encourage open communication among team members about their current workload.
Create an Open Door Policy.
Communication is vital to keep your employees loyal to your organization. Open relationships with management also positively influence your organization’s company culture. Organize open forums to discuss any issues and schedule monthly one-on-ones with your direct reports to discuss projects and potential pain points.
Offer formal training for your recognition program.
Less than 1 in 5 companies have a formal recognition training program for their managers. Whether you offer a social recognition program, a spot awards program, or a non-traditional style of recognition, make sure to include training materials during the onboarding process. This will start your employees on the right foot with a positive attitude and the proper tools to develop friendships.
- Cross-train employees.
Let’s face it: if your organization has more than one distinct department, those departments may experience conflict from time to time. By incorporating cross-training into your onboarding process, employees will be more respectful and understanding of individuals outside of their department. This will lead to greater interdepartmental cooperation and even increases your chances of coworkers will become friends!
- Teach proper communication skills.
Start with a solid foundation by incorporating communication skills training into your onboarding process. This applies to all forms of communication like email, phone, collaboration platforms, etc.
- Promote gratitude and teamwork.
Recent neuroscience research suggests that giving and receiving thanks has an incredible effect on your workplace culture, including strengthening team bonds and lessening friction between coworkers. Social Recognition platforms, like MTM’s Carousel®, are a great tool to create bonds through recognition.
- Encourage relationship building.
Make time each day, week, or month to learn more about one another on a personal level. Use this time to discuss upcoming birthdays (if your employees are comfortable sharing), favorite new movies coming out, or familial celebrations such as weddings, graduations, etc.
- Organize social events.
Facilitate friendships by organizing social events both during work time and after-hours. Make Tuesdays at 5:00 Movie Night in your cafeteria! Or set up company-wide picnics on the last Friday of each quarter.
- Promote a trusting environment.
Discourage gossip and promote trust so your team feels comfortable opening up to one another in their own time. In order for friendships to form, trust is imperative.
- Host events where employees can invite a partner or friend to join.
Having a friend along allows people to feel more confident and less anxious in social situations, fostering an environment for more friendship building with coworkers.
Do you have a best friend at work? Have any additional tips for promoting workplace friendships? Leave us a comment below or find out more about MTM’s Carousel® and how it can help you promote friendships in your organization.