When you think about the factors that make your employees good workers, a lot of key things are often overlooked. Happiness, fulfilment, workplace design . . . all of these tend to fall to the back-burner. In fact, the emphasis seems to be on much more numerical things. How much holiday time employees take; the qualifications they hold; the number of hours they work. But what do employees think?
70% of employees say that having friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life. – Source
Today, we’re going to be talking about one of the unsung heroes of a successful office – workplace friendships – and how your business can encourage them.
The benefits of having friends in the workplace
In all likelihood, friendship is not one of the things that springs to mind when you think of productivity – but that attitude might be entirely wrong. Instead of touching on the obvious benefits to having a friendly workforce, like efficient teamwork and a better office environment, we’re going to take a look at some of the lesser-known benefits.
People with workplace friendships are nearly 3 times more likely to say that they love their companies and 2 times less likely to be poached by another company. – Source
1. Friends at work make you more productive and motivated
Work can be many things. It can be exciting, fun and fulfilling . . . however, it can also be boring, stressful, difficult and demotivating. When you’re working in the positives, you’re likely to be engaged and focused on your work. Producing high quality results and going the extra mile!
People with a best friend at work are 7 times more likely to be motivated and productive. – Source
When you’re working in the negatives, however, you’re not going to be working to the best of your ability. You’ll be uninspired, possibly making mistakes – even worse, you might just not care. When you are not happy at work, your quality of work suffers.
Having a friend at work means having support; having someone to cheer you up when you’re down, let you vent when you’re stressed and have a chat when you’re bored. It means having something to look forward to when you go into the office. This can massively improve how much you enjoy your time at work – something that reflects in the work you produce. In fact, employees with a friend have a 35% higher dedication to quality than their counterparts.
2. Friends at work boost job satisfaction
Studies have found that close friendships at work increase employee satisfaction by 50 percent – Source
As you can imagine from our previous point, the result of all of these benefits of having workplace friends is a higher level of workplace satisfaction among employees with friends at work. A lot of businesses overlook the importance of workplace satisfaction, but it is absolutely critical to maintaining a strong workforce and retaining your top talent – plus, having a workplace that’s well-known to be good to work for (think Google or Apple) is great for attracting new hires.
Why is employee satisfaction important?
50% of employees with a best friend at work reported that they felt a strong connection with their company. – Source
- Satisfied employees are more engaged with their jobs and so produce better work
- They are also more loyal to the company and less likely to leave, even if offered a better salary
- Happy employees act as brand ambassadors; they are more likely to speak well about the company (and won’t slag them off on the internet like a lot of disgruntles employees do!)
- Increased job satisfaction among your workforce decreases turnover
58% of men said they would refuse a higher paying job role if it meant not getting along with coworkers; 74% of women said the same. – Source
3. Friends at work just make people plain happier
Again, you may not see the immediate importance of this from a business perspective, but your employees’ mental health can be just as important as their physical. In fact, it can affect their physical health – recent studies have shown a link between high levels of mental distress and an increased risk of dying from cancer. Happy employees take less time off (12.7% of all sickness absence days in the UK can be attributed to mental health conditions), are healthier and generally produce better work.
People with strong interpersonal relationships are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. – Source
How to encourage employee friendships
Now that we’ve convinced you that workplace friends are a critical component to workplace success, let’s have a look at how your business can encourage employees to build them.
1. Use a buddy system to welcome in new hires
When people first join your business, it can be a daunting experience – they’re thrown into a completely new environment with people who already have strong pre-established bonds with one another and often just left to get on with it.
A great way to encourage friendships between new and existing employees is to implement a buddy system. Each new hire has an assigned “buddy” to help them integrate with the team and introduce them to everyone. This can be help new people feel like part of the team quicker and gives them a chance to develop a friendship with someone off the bat . . . which we’ve already discovered makes them a lot more likely to stay with you.
2. Have a weekly lunch together
Sometimes within the confines of the traditional office, it can be difficult to breach hierarchies and build relationships with people more senior to you, or in different departments. A weekly lunch can be a good chance to get to know your workforce in an informal setting without eating into outside hours or personal time (which people may not be keen on).
Plus, studies have shown that eating the same kind of food together can build relationships and boost feelings of trust – what better way to bring the office closer together?
3. Play office games together
Office games can be a great way to relieve tension, have a bit of fun and just get to know each other better. They don’t have to be fancy or disruptive – plus, a lot of them are quick!
A few ideas for some fun office games:
- Have a word of the day calendar and see who can naturally work the word into conversation throughout the day
- Office prank competition
- Photoshop tennis (a game where an image is sent round the whole office and people add an edit or drawing to it, then the final result is printed out)
4. Introduce some (real!) team-building activities
Team building admittedly has a rough reputation – and it’s not entirely undeserved. After all, in all likelihood your employees don’t actually want to have to do “trust falls” into your arms all morning! However, if you take the time to invest in some real, fun team building activities the payoff can be great!
5. Allow a dog in the office
We’ve spoken at length about the benefits of allowing dogs in the office, but one big benefit that applies here? The social aspect. Most people love dogs – and nothing starts a conversation like a friendly, cute puppy running round the office.
We hope that this post has helped you to understand the value of friendship in the workplace and gave you some inspiration for ways that your business could try to encourage it.