In Praise Of Office Friendships

This infographic from OfficeVibe highlights statistics from several reports on friendship and employee engagement to come up with an unsurprising conclusion: we’re happier at work if we have friends there.

Workdays seem shorter when we can take a break to laugh with a friend at the water cooler. The organization as a whole seems more relatable when we’re connected with our coworkers. Problems are less overwhelming when we can share them with others.

I recently spoke with Ryan Scott, the CEO of Causecast, whose software helps companies set up and manage workplace giving initiatives and volunteer programs. “Employee engagement doesn’t come from the being engaged with the corporation so much as it comes from being engaged with each other,” he said. “The way I see it, if your best friend works at the company you work at your chances of quitting are pretty close to zero.”

Those moments spent admiring new grandbaby photos together, celebrating a birthday, or working on a volunteer project together do more than just build camaraderie – they help create a common sense of purpose. People report that when they’re friends with their coworkers, they have more fun at work and they’re more satisfied with their jobs. They’re more engaged with the organization’s mission, and less likely to quit.

Personal relationships give rise to trust, which leads to collaboration and innovation. So, how can organizations foster healthy friendships at work?

  • Volunteer together: Working together on an outside cause can help foster common interests between employees, and is a great chance to break down barriers between different department silos within the organization. Be sure to provide a space for employees to organize their own volunteer events – whether through a bulletin board or a program like Causecast.
  • Get outside the office: Company barbecues and holiday parties are a great way for people to get to know each other outside the work environment. Making them family-friendly adds an extra element, as it gives people a chance to meet each others’ significant others and children, as well.
  • Corporate challenges: Encouraging employees to participate in bike-to-work teams, disaster relief fundraising drives, or wellness challenges is a fantastic way to build community.
  • Let people be themselves: If an organization is built on a culture of suspicion and privacy, its employees will probably be pretty guarded at work. It can be difficult for employees to build true friendships in this type of environment. Rather, encourage a culture where people feel free to share their successes, frustrations, and motivations.
  • Give people space: Create space for employees to slow down and connect with each other from time to time. Giving people time to work on passion projects, to take team lunches, and to escape the rush for a few minutes each day could lead to some beautiful breakthroughs and innovative ideas.
  • Celebrate big events at work: Cupcakes for birthdays, signing cards for milestone work anniversaries, surprise showers, and other celebratory events help create a feeling that everyone’s part of the team.
  • Encourage acts of kindness: Some of the best moments for creating friendship come outside the office. If one of your employees is going through a tough time, signing cards, sending flowers, or even organizing a freezer meal collection or donations for a house cleaner can go a long way to show that your organization cares.

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