No matter how much you love your job, having friends at your place of work can make it a thousand times better. Workplace friendships bring so much to the table: just knowing your friends are going to be there makes Mondays more bearable; they alleviate the stress of working long hours; they offer support and compassion when things go wrong; they bring fun and conviviality into the equation.
The fact is, according to Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, friendship and employee engagement are closely linked, and having a best friend at work is related to better business outcomes, including profitability and even customer loyalty.
The survey also revealed a unique social trend among employees on top-performing teams. When employees have a deep sense of affiliation with their team members, they take positive actions that benefit the business – actions they might not have taken if they didn’t have strong relationships with their coworkers.
Humans have a fundamental need to create relationships
Beyond business outcomes or scientific validity, though, is a simple premise: people are driven to form friendships. In its Women in America: Work and Life Well-Lived report, Gallup found that two-thirds of women say the social aspect of a job is a “major reason” why they work, confirming that women’s friendships at work affect their overall engagement.
According to Christine M. Riordan, Professor of Management at the University of Kentucky, camaraderie is a key ingredient to happiness at work for both male and female employees. She believes that the mere opportunity for friendship increases job satisfaction and organizational effectiveness. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Riordan offered a multitude of evidence suggesting that office friendships can act as an antidote to dissatisfaction and disengagement at work. The type of relationships that go beyond casual acquaintances – what she calls “the good old-fashioned friendships created when we chit-chat, hang out, joke, and have fun with co-workers” – can have far-ranging benefits in the workplace.
She writes: “Camaraderie is more than just having fun… It is also about creating a common sense of purpose and the mentality that we are in it together. Studies have shown that soldiers form strong bonds during missions in part because they believe in the purpose of the mission, rely on each other, and share the good and the bad as a team. In short, camaraderie promotes a group loyalty that results in a shared commitment to and discipline toward the work.”
The role of the company in fostering employee friendships
Encouraging friendships at work doesn’t necessarily mean organizations need to install game rooms and hold weekly happy hours to promote a fun workplace – although these can often be effective ways to increase fun and build relationships. The real goal of encouraging people to get to know one another is to encourage them to build stronger connections. Because the more connected employees feel to their teams and coworkers, the better their performance is.
Companies can’t ask employees to check their basic human needs at the door. Work should be a place where every employee can connect with and relate to their coworkers. Employees want that social outlet. They want a job where they have someone they can confide in and share their successes and challenges with. By creating opportunities for their people to get to know one another, companies offer their employees a wide range of benefits – while reaping many business rewards themselves.