The American Time Use survey found out that employed people spend more time working than sleeping. Well, that might come as no surprise.
But what’s interesting is that given all that time spent in close proximity to colleagues, US employees are less likely to have friends at work now than in years past.
As Adam Grant noted in his column in the New York Times, work used to be a major source of friendships:
We took our families to company picnics and invited our colleagues over for dinner. Now, work is a more transactional place. We go to the office to be efficient, not to form bonds. We have plenty of productive conversations but fewer meaningful relationships.
And that’s a great pity, actually. Numbers show that strong social connections in the workplace have the potential to boost productivity. Also, friendship at workplace can make employees more passionate about their work and less likely to quit their jobs.
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Workplace friendships for the win
People love to have friends around most of the time, that’s a no-brainer. But most companies still fail to harness the power of friendship in the workplace.
There are several factors that indicate that having good relationships in the workplace are the key to employee happiness and productivity. Companies with staff who have a work best friend benefit from fewer safety incidents, more engaged customers and a boost in profits.
When talking about workplace happiness, it all comes down to bonding and mutual trust.
Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile is the co-author of The Progress Principle who analysed 12,000 daily diary reports from 239 professionals working in innovation teams. She claims that “people are more creative and productive when they experience more positive inner work life, including more positive emotions, stronger motivation toward the work itself and more positive perceptions of the organisation.”
Fostering that genuine rapport can be a challenge, though. This is especially the case in places where the process of making friends is not supported. There are still too many leaders and managers who frown at chit-chat and shared lunch breaks and consider work friendships detrimental to productivity.
Such an approach, however, is based on a misconception that has nothing to do with a healthy workplace of the 21st century.
According to Gallup, camaraderie can pay great dividends as employees with a best friend at work were shown to be up to seven times as engaged as those without one. And work friendships are also crucial to meeting business objectives, too.
Off-site retreats, social events, team projects
There are many ways how companies can help their employees forge work friendships and develop strong relationships with those they work with.
Off-site retreats and social events, along with work-focused activities such as team projects, are great catalysts for friendship. These are opportunities that allow people to share their personal story, preferred work style and unique individuality.
Some companies encourage their teams to have a regular ‘huddle’ with remote workers joining by Skype. Others support social activities such as yoga, pilates, pub clubs, festival events or company-funded lunches that create a welcoming atmosphere that can help forge meaningful and lasting work friendships.
“Having close relationships in which people care and trust each other enables them to work better and have that sense of team, which leads to getting things done in a more productive way,” says Chess ICT's head of culture Ms Wood.
Drawbacks and boundaries
Most businesses are fast paced and dynamic, which involves extensive collaboration and communication. Social interaction plays a huge role to make teams happy and productive, too.
However, friendships may sometimes turn into a chance for negative discussion, gripe sessions or even harmful cliques. This usually happens in companies without a strong culture when social interaction is not part of a wider engagement strategy.
Work friendships are indeed a mixed blessing. They sometimes lead to emotional exhaustion, despite enhancing job performance. Personal conflict can provoke further issues that have adverse impact on wider working relationships.
Most experts agree that professional boundaries are still necessary. While social interaction at work promotes our well-being, companies do need to set clear expectations of behaviour in the workplace.
Towards a healthier work culture
People spend the majority of their time at work, so why miss the chance of providing them with the company of someone they’d be happy to call a friend?
Camaraderie is a key ingredient to happiness at work for both male and female employees. It promotes a group loyalty that results in a shared commitment to and discipline toward the work.
However, companies need to play an active part in creating a strategy that fosters work friendships. Only then will relationships in the workplace have a chance to develop in a healthy and productive manner.
Want to make some friends? We've put together 15 useful networking pickup lines that will boost your confidence and turn random acquaintances into true friends.