Why Social Anxiety May be Stopping Gen-Z Employees Making Friends

As an employer, it’s vital that you do everything within your power to maximize both employee productivity and job satisfaction. According to new research, encouraging friendships within your workforce could hold the key to unlocking these two factors and creating a positive working environment.

It turns out that workplace friendships are far more important to staff than simply having a colleague to eat lunch or gather round the watercooler for a chat with. Many of us forge lifelong friendships or meet partners through work, and a recent study by Furniture At Work cements this view.

Despite this, Generation Z is struggling to make friends at work, with many citing social anxiety as a roadblock that prevents them from developing stronger relationships with colleagues.

The Importance of Workplace Friendships

Furniture At Work surveyed 2,000 office workers, with two-thirds of them saying that having friends in the workplace increased their overall happiness. Other positive well-being factors that friendships contributed to included good mental health and job satisfaction.

As well as the boost to their own contentment, even more respondents (71%) said that friendships in the office contributed to a positive working environment. This is where it gets interesting; the majority of people also said that having friends at work boosted their motivation and productivity.

This is absolutely critical to employers and something they cannot ignore. While workplace friendships may have historically been perceived as distractions with the potential to encourage a cliquey culture, they are now contributing to a better performing, more profitable workforce.

The Struggles of Generation Z

With this more modern approach to workplace friendships taking hold, the assumption may be that younger employees are driving this revolution. However, Generation Z is a mixed bag when compared to the rest of the nation.

While the survey results showed that Gen-Z members of staff are more likely to consider their office buddies as close friends and socialize with colleagues at least once a month, they also struggle the most to make friends (with 36% admitting to this, compared to the national average of 26%).

Over a third of Generation Z admitted to not socializing with colleagues due to their social anxiety. This disorder is caused by a need to constantly come across as ‘perfect’ in social situations and a fear of being judged by others. So, what can employers do to help the future of their workforce combat this?

Encouraging Workplace Friendships

In the modern, competitive job market, companies that don’t offer benefits beyond just salary and holiday find themselves inevitably left behind. Providing extra perks that encourage employees to spend more time together outside of the office is a great way to help foster workplace friendships and a culture that employees feel supported by.

Many businesses run monthly social events that allow colleagues to interact away from the confines of the office. Employers should try and vary these as much as possible to appeal to a wide range of their workforce and allow everyone to get involved in something they’re comfortable with.

Employers can also provide mental health awareness training to facilitate a workforce more open to discussing the issue of social anxiety and providing solutions.

The overwhelming benefits of office friendships, both to employee wellbeing and company productivity, illustrate the importance of employers creating a culture that facilitates them. However, with those who make up the future of the workforce suffering more than anyone else with the anxiety that accompanies this culture shift, there is still plenty of work to be done to sustain this increase in employee welfare and output.

About the author: Dan Yeo manages a team of content writers at Search Laboratory in Leeds, England. He holds an ILM Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management and regularly writes about workplace and employee motivation. 

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