With Mental Health Week occurring in October, we thought it was a great opportunity to highlight how important workplace friendships can be for employee wellbeing.
Many of us probably understand that having positive relationships and friendships in the workplace can provide much needed social and emotional support – something that has become even more important due to the stress and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent study from Gallup affirms the importance of these types of connections and has found that having a best friend at work has also become increasingly tied to employee engagement and job success.
So why exactly are workplace friendships so beneficial to employees and businesses? And what can employers do to build the type of culture in which workplace friendships thrive?
The benefits of workplace friendships
Recent research by Gallup suggests that authentic friendships at work are so important because they can provide us with essential social and emotional support and connection.
Having someone at work who we trust in the say way we trust a best friend work makes us feel like we have someone in the workplace who genuinely cares about us, who we can rely on and who will have our back.
Furthermore, workplace friendships can have a highly positive effect on worker engagement, deepening an employee’s “sense of ownership for their work” and enabling them “to be more effective and sustainable, regardless of where or when they work.”
Those who have a best friend at work report higher levels of job satisfaction, are more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work and are less likely to be looking for work elsewhere.
Gallup also found that employees who have a best friend at work are much more likely to:
- engage customers and internal partners
- get more done in less time
- support a safe workplace with fewer accidents and reliability concerns
- innovate and share ideas
- have fun while at work
Despite the clear benefits these types of friendships can bring, research by BetterUp has found that 44% of employees don’t have a true friend at work, 38% don’t trust their co-workers and 22% don’t have one friend at work.
How employers can foster workplace friendships
So for employers, how can you foster a workplace in which supportive friendships can form and thrive?
Gallup suggests three key steps which can help to promote friendships in the workplace.
1. Promote Friendships
Gallup notes that employees often take cues from their managers, meaning that employers should try to actively promote the value of having a best friend at work – and lead by example.
Employees should be encouraged to get to know their co-workers and make the time to connect which each other, whether this be a Zoom catch-up or a quick chat in the office.
These types of interactions are also incredibly important for hybrid or remote workers and can help to avoid the isolation which can often come with these types of working arrangements.
2. Create opportunities to build friendships
While it’s easy for employers to talk about the importance of workplace friendships, you also need to ensure your workers actually have opportunities to build and nurture these.
It’s important to consider whether employees do “have time, opportunities and permission to form spontaneous connections” or whether there are real or perceived constraints to employees socializing and forming connections.
Gallup suggests that incorporating ‘scheduled friendship activities’ like team lunches or events can help employees to build genuine connections.
3. Communicate often
When it comes to fostering a workplace culture that is conducive to building friendships, communication is key.
Employers and managers should lead by example, “creating a culture where friendly dialogue is the norm.”
Regular team emails which recognise employee achievements and celebrate milestones are a great place to start, as is actively encouraging employees to maintain open lines of communication with their co-workers.
Measuring workplace connections and satisfaction
Employee surveys, such as Akyra’s HR SnapShot can help employers to identify how socially connected and supported their workers feel in the workplace.
Another outcome is that business is more likely to identify potential barriers to these types of connections and provide crucial insight into how you can foster a workplace which may be more conducive to building friendships and support networks.
“A key outcome of fostering and encouraging workplace ‘best friends’ and utilising the three tools above is that your workforce will be more resilient; more willing and able to adapt to the ever-changing work environment” said Margaret Goody, HR Strategist with Akyra Strategy & Development.
Akyra’s key takeaways
- Having someone at work an employee trusts in the way the trust a best friend can provide highly beneficial emotional and social support to employees
- These relationships are also beneficial for employers, with employees who have a best friend at work being more resilient and more engaged with higher levels of job satisfaction and less likely to look for work elsewhere
- Employers can foster these types of connections by actively promoting workplace friendships, creating opportunities for employees to connect and “creating a culture where friendly dialogue is the norm.”
- Employee surveys like Akyra’s HR SnapShot can help employers understand how socially connected and supported their employees are and identify areas which may be in need of improvement
NEED MORE INFORMATION?
Akyra can help your business to assist and support all your questions and concerns related to employee engagement and satisfaction. Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.
Disclaimer – Reliance on Content
The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.