How to build friendships at work - and why it matters.

8th September 2021

Over more than 30 years of employee engagement research, Gallup has included the question, ‘Do you have a best friend at work?’ in its surveys. The simple reason behind this is that research has shown a clear link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort that employees put in.

Strong bonds at work have been identified as one of the strongest predictors of productivity. In fact, Gallup calculates that people who have a best friend at work may be twice as likely to feel engaged in their work than those who do not.

It’s one of many ways that a positive organisational culture can deliver tangible business results.

What do we really mean by workplace culture?

There are many elements to workplace culture, including management styles, process and procedures and of course office/ home office environments (more on that to come!). When it comes down to the realities of the working day though, our colleague relationships have the biggest impact on how we feel about the organisation we work for.

70% of employees regard friends at work as the most important element of a happy life at work.

Officevibe Survey

A positive workplace culture also represents a huge opportunity. When businesses get this right, they benefit from engaged and loyal teams.

58% of men and 74% of women would even refuse a pay increase if it meant not getting along with their colleagues.

Officevibe Survey

People are missing their post-work drinks

As many teams have been physically separated during the pandemic, culture has become more difficult to build and measure.
Surveying employees from over 1,000 companies, Wildgoose have investigated the impact that recent shifts such as remote working have had on workplace friendships.

58% of respondents specifically stated that ‘happiness’ at work is more important than ‘salary’ while 57% agreed that having a ‘work best friend’ makes their job more enjoyable. However the number of people who have strong friendships at work has fallen recently. The impact of loneliness is particularly felt amongst people who have joined a new business during the pandemic.

Interestingly, after work drinks are still the most popular form of socialising, meaning that managers need to be creative in finding new ways to build these trusting relationships.

How can leaders start to re-ignite friendships?

So what role does management have in encouraging or fostering positive relationships?

“I have no friends at work” was the opening line of a question to the agony aunt of Psychologies magazine. The person posing their problem went on to say:
“There is not much staff turnover and it is quite cliquey. People are not unkind, but they will go off to lunch in little groups and never invite me.”

Reading the full problem then gave a powerful insight into the workings of this particular organisation. ‘Unwritten Ground Rules’ (UGRs), a phrase coined by Steve Simpson were clearly at play in terms of how their people were operating and communicating.

UGRs will exist in every workplace, for better or worse. In the organisation described above these may have included things like:

“In this company we don’t help people to feel part of the team.”

“In this company we allow cliques to form that exclude new employees”

“It’s OK for new employees to feel isolated.”

As we’ve seen, it is easy for remote working to exacerbate feelings of isolation or loneliness at work, so this is becoming more important than ever.
It’s starting to become clear then that management has a role to play in encouraging a positive and uplifting working environment. One that values fairness and inspires all members of the team to deliver the best business outcomes.

Independent, bias-free recognition and causes for celebration!

The world has changed massively over the last year. A massive shift is also happening with regard to respecting diversity and equality. In this context there has possibly never been a more urgent need for improving relationships at work. Business leaders who recognise the power of friendship are going to be able to attract and retain the best people and build businesses that people feel proud to be associated with.

We recognise just how important it is to share praise between colleagues, so we enable you to capture colleague to colleague compliments, as well as those from your customers. You can review and report on this feedback from within our system. This is a powerful way of reinforcing values, giving people pride in their work and building friendships in the workplace.

Our client success story for Trust Inheritance is a great example of the impact that peer-to-peer recognition can make.

It’s very important. It’s fantastic that The WOW! Awards recognises that great service starts within.

Angie Wilson

Chief Customer Officer, Trust Inheritance

To have friends is to have trust, respect, companionship, support. But more than that, friendship is a source of energy and a foundation from which so much more can be accomplished than by individuals acting alone. This is the synergy of friendship.

International Friendship Day

July 30th is International Friendship Day, a tradition started in 1919.  This is an opportunity to make sure that everyone in your organisation has a friend at work.