Business

We know that people are happier at work when they are on good terms with colleagues. Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.

Not convinced yet?

Fostering friendships at work is a simple way of enhancing employee engagement. Building a culture that embraces fun, team spirit, camaraderie and a common sense of purpose creates a sense of shared commitment. It builds increased levels of employee trust, creativity and communication, leading to staff retention rages, good morale and healthy productivity and profits. We need to work together, so fostering fun, friendship and support makes sense. Great organisations are places where people look forward to going in to work. A decade of research by the Great Place to Work Institute reveals that “great” companies consistently earn significantly higher marks for “fun”.

Space to socialise

All this was easier, of course, when we spent eight hours a day sharing space, meeting at the water cooler or copier, listening to our colleagues gripe, josh and banter. In an open plan space we also had to ignore their loud telephone conversations, raucous laughter and pungent snack foods but then nobody’s perfect. A colleague used to say “it’s a good thing we’re all different”, usually through gritted teeth. Making friends at work is harder now so many of us work from hot desks, home or serviced offices on short-term or freelance contracts as we only meet up with colleagues occasionally.

Times have changed

Adam Grant, Professor of Management and Psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says work is more transactional now; we go to the office to be efficient, not to form bonds and we have plenty of productive conversations but fewer meaningful relationships. Grant blames flexitime and virtual offices for our failure to bond with colleagues and points out that work is more transitory, since we know we won’t be with the same organisation for long, we don’t invest in building close relationships. This is a shame, as research shows that groups of friends outperform groups of acquaintances in both decision making and effort tasks.

Share and enjoy

Personality and, in particular age, mean friendship and support at work don’t have the resonance for everyone. A recent study by LinkedIn looked at how different generations think about relationships at work:

  • Half of all workers believe friendships with co-workers increase workplace happiness;
  • Millennials report that friendships at work have a significant impact on boosting happiness (57%), motivation (50%) and productivity (39%);
  • Baby Boomers (those between ages 55-65) report work friendships had no effect on their professional performance. That’s not really surprising, of course, and Nicole Williams, LinkedIn career expert says “This means that creating an office culture that resonates across generations, roles and personalities is a critical factor in building a successful working environment.”

Dr. Jessica Methot, Assistant Professor of Human Resource Management at Questrom School of Business and Labour Relations, Rutgers University recommends “organisations should focus on practices that promote friendship among co-workers who can interact for work-related purposes” such as introducing friendly competition between staff, or implementing social intranet systems “that simultaneously allow employees to collaborate and share task information while getting to know each other on a social level”.

Fun is an important component of how people work best together. When meeting up, sharing a good time with colleagues should be front of mind as well as productivity, targets and business. It’s all part and parcel of how people operate best together, doing business should be fun!

Image: Shutterstock


About Liz Sebag-Montefiore

Liz Sebag-Montefiore is a Co-Founder and Director of 10Eighty. With over 10yrs of business experience, I have an extensive and impressive blue chip client base. I have worked with numerous firms working in partnership with the client to understand their needs. My current role involves managing relationships with clients, developing new business, and coaching individuals in their career. I really enjoy meeting new people and have strong client relationship and networking skills.

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