Do you have a breakroom bestie? A coworking compatriot? A work parent or spouse? In other words, do you have friends at work?
Friendship, in general, has many benefits. In fact, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows us that “love/belonging” is a vital part of our existence. We crave the protection of groups and bond together with others to move from surviving to thriving.
One study of adolescent boys showed that those who lacked close friendships (thus holding their secrets inside and trying to figure things out on their own) also had increased depression. Physical health is affected by friendship, too.
A study of Swedish men showed reduced rates of coronary heart disease in men with stronger “social integration” and “emotional attachment.”
But the benefits of friendship translate into benefits in the office as well.
Benefits of Having Friends at Work
Gallup data from 2022 is clear—work friends matter now more than ever. As stress from the pandemic and remote work strained our personal and professional lives, many people relied (and still do) on the support of their work friends.
Friendships at work increase…
- Happiness: Not only does being around our friends make us happy, but they help us de-stress by listening when we need to vent.
- Productivity: 57% of UK employees say having a friend at work increases productivity and creativity.
- Cooperation: Friendships make it easier to share ideas and gain support from groups, enhancing decision-making for teams.
- Retention: 66% of employees with more than six work friends report loving their company compared to just 24% of those with no work friends.
- Safety: Experiencing friendship in work spaces can increase physical and psychological safety for team members.
How to Form Workplace Friendships
It can be difficult to know how to make friends at work. But Dale Carnegie knew all the secrets to making friends (he literally wrote the book on it). First, Dale reminds us that making friends can be as simple as remembering someone’s name.
He also says: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Ask questions and get to know people. Open up to them, and it will encourage them to open up to you.
What Leaders Can Do to Encourage Workplace Friendships
When it comes to engaging employees in the workplace, it’s critical to actively encourage friendships. And Gallup has found that the team manager accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement. That means it’s up to leaders to set up opportunities for friendships to start and blossom.
- Show, Don’t Tell
Managers and executives need to lead by doing. Make your coworker friendships visible to others or mention the benefits of your work friendships around others who might need help making friends.
- Assign Buddies
SHRM encourages assigning a work buddy to mentor new hires. In doing so, you help form a personal connection between the worker and the company. In addition, Microsoft found that 97% of workers who met with a buddy eight times in the first ninety days on the job said that they became more productive faster.
- Set Up In-Person Meetups
Workers spend up to a third of their life at work. Use some of that time to encourage or even set up friendships. Try coworking times or social events where team members can come together.
- Support Personal Development
Some people just aren’t comfortable with or don’t easily make friends in the workplace. Supporting these workers means investing in personal development. Whether they’re learning Communication and People Skills or How to Win Friends in Business, personal development can help people come out of their shells and make more coworker friends.
Having friends at work is critical to success and engagement. Nurture your own friendships and encourage others to make friends at work. When you do, your company will benefit.