- Friendships at work can boost employee engagement, job satisfaction and productivity.
- Employee turnover is lower in companies with cultures that prioritize trust and inclusion.
- Business owners and managers can help create a safe and social environment that promotes friendship, collaboration and inclusivity.
- This article is for business owners, managers and employees interested in fostering friendships and engagement in the workplace.
Do you have close friends at work? According to the 2021 Workplace Friendship & Happiness Survey by Wildgoose, 57% of people say having a best friend in the workplace makes work more enjoyable, 22% feel more productive with friends, and 21% say friendship makes them more creative.
These numbers are understandable. Work is often a means to an end, and jobs come with stressors and unexpected events that are out of your control. Awork best friend can help make the hours spent in the workplace happier and more purposeful.
"Relationships matter because they help us feel connected, making us more motivated and productive," Catherine Fisher, LinkedIn career expert, wrote in a blog post. "It's much easier to share feedback with someone if you have built up a solid rapport, or ask someone for advice if you have invested in the relationship."
Whether an employee works remotely or in an office or hybrid work model, we'll explore why work best friends can benefit coworkers, businesses, and the overall company culture.
Benefits of having a best friend at work
When you have close work friends, you can enjoy personal rewards that positively impact your career. Here are some of the top benefits of having a best friend at work:
Work friendships increase job satisfaction.
According to the Wildgoose poll, employees with close work friends experience higher levels of job satisfaction. They are happier and less likely to leave the company. A 2018 Gallup poll found that those who have a best friend at work are twice as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher-quality work, have a greater sense of well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job.
In challenging situations, employees who report having a best friend at work have lower stress levels. Both the Gallup and Wildgoose surveys found that people with close work friends were more confident and composed in finding solutions to their problems because they have friends supporting them.
Did you know? Workplace stress can result in low employee engagement, poor employee performance, and a lack of focus and productivity.
Workplace friends reduce burnout and boost productivity.
Work can be monotonous. Regardless of the tasks you are performing, you are likely to experience workplace burnout at some point. Individuals who have friends at work are less likely to experience burnout than workers without workplace friends. Workers who aren't experiencing burnout are more productive and happier.
Tip: Other ways to boost productivity and minimize burnout include writing down your daily goals, taking short breaks, and moving around.
Work friends can improve the overall business.
In addition to helping avoid burnout, work friends bring other positive gains. Gallup's research found that when 60% of employees in a company have a work best friend, safety incidents decreased by 36%, customer engagement increased by 7%, and profits increased by 12%. The presence of solid work friendships can impact multiple facets of your business.
Workplace friendships promote friendly challenges to improve.
Best friends are likely to engage in friendly workplace competition when accomplishing their tasks, spurring each other to produce higher-quality work. Moreover, they are each other's most constructive critics. Individuals often take criticism more positively from someone they care about.
Friendly workplaces have lower employee turnover.
Employee retention is more critical than ever. Another pandemic side effect has been what analysts call the Great Resignation, which in August 2021 saw 4.3 million workers quit their jobs. Even as the unemployment rate starts to even out, worker attitudes have shifted, and money isn't enough to keep employees anymore.
How to make the work culture more friendship-friendly
Starting and developing work friendships can't be forced, but employers and management can help create an environment that is safe, social and conducive to friendship.
"I'm not suggesting we all start texting our managers at any hour about our latest crush or a favorite new shirt, but it does indicate that our growing workforce wants to have more of a connection," Fisher wrote.
Managers can do their part to create an inclusive environment at work that can foster friendships. By taking a genuine interest in employees' lives, managers can create a culture that values social bonding.
Fisher offered several tips for managers who aren't comfortable getting too personal with their employees to ensure their employees feel connected:
- Don't limit conversations to email or formal meetings. Think outside the box and incorporate strategies conducive to a more social atmosphere. For example, take a walking meeting. Walking meetings are part of LinkedIn's culture, and they are popular because people tend to relax during a walk, allowing for more creativity and innovation. Plus, not having a phone or computer interrupt you every second allows you to be more focused on the person you are talking to and, ultimately, more connected, Fisher said.
- Set up team-building events. Opportunities for team building can boost workplace friendship potential. The Wildgoose survey found that 46% of respondents preferred after-work drinks once a month as a way to connect and bond with their team. Designating an office breakout area where employees can share workplace meals is another way to create healthy business relationships.
- Take an interest in employees' personal lives. While you may not want to give relationship advice, you should take an interest in your teammates as people. Spend a few minutes during every one-on-one meeting to connect on a personal level. If your colleague always jets out with their yoga mat, ask them about it. Work is only one part of who people are. If you get to know people's other passions, it may give you a glimpse into what motivates them.
- Congratulate, share and like. A simple gesture on social media to show employees you appreciate them can do wonders for employee morale. Think of how great it feels to get a "job well done" email from your boss, and then imagine having the same recognition shared with your network. It feels great to get acknowledged for your hard work, and by sharing that acknowledgment publicly, you also help build your professional brand.
- Be mindful of pandemic-induced loneliness. The pandemic created a shift to remote work that may have negatively impacted some employees. The 2021 Wildgoose survey found that more employees lacked workplace friends – and wanted work friends – than in its 2017 survey. Managers should make an effort to keep remote workers engaged and help them feel less isolated.
Tip: To help remote workers stay connected, consider implementing remote communication, scheduling and project management tools. To learn more, read our guide to the best remote working tools.
How communication fosters friendliness
A core theme in these tips for creating a more social work environment is open communication. If employers and management take the time to talk to their teams, they can develop stronger connections that set a precedent for the work environment.
Work can be stressful, but having a best friend in the workplace can make clocking in a little more rewarding for you and your employer.
Chad Brooks contributed to the writing and research in this article.