Why Friends at Work Matter
A recent Gallup poll found that only 20 percent of employees strongly agree they have someone at work they consider a 'best friend'. Friendship and the line between home life and work is often not something typically encouraged, as many people feel friendship shouldn't transcend the walls of the workplace. People usually find it appropriate to be friendly with their coworkers but engaging in deep friendships is not something they feel compelled to do.
Why does friendship at work even matter?
Well, it's simple: performance.
Research shows a clear link between the amount of effort employees give to their jobs and having a best friend at work. In fact, women who reportedly strongly agreed that they have a best friend at their job were 34% more likely to be actively engaged at work, in comparison to women who didn't.
But what's beneath the surface of having a friend at work? Actually, a lot–especially when considering the cultural component friendship brings to work.
The American workforce sees an alarming number of women opting out of the job market at the time of peak age and opportunities, determining that traditional employment no longer makes sense once they have children. Although women may still desire to work, outdated corporate policies and conventional systems often make working outside the home impractical. In addition, when mothers consider the fact that the majority of their paycheck pays for childcare, the pros and cons of working just don't add up.
However, if leaders took the responsibility of making it more appealing for women to stay in the workforce, they would see vast improvements in their organization, from increased innovation to improved competitive advantages. And this doesn't just apply to women in the organization; for both women and men, better performance outcomes were linked to having friends at work.
The social component of work is vital to women, who are generally more relational than men. In fact, two out of three women report the 'major reason' they work was because of the social aspect their job provides. How does that impact the workplace? When women connect on a deeper level with their coworkers, the benefits include:
- They are less likely to search for other employment opportunities
- They are more inclined to take risks, potentially leading to innovation
- They are more likely to enjoy what they do, make increased progress, and receive recognition for their successes.
From an organizational perspective, leaders should be concentrating on how they can improve their corporate culture to value things like inclusion and friendship. Three key recommendations are:
- Promote collaboration: Because workplace responsibilities and projects don't function in silos, many employees are involved with peers outside of their immediate teams. When leaders lay the foundation for open engagement and collaboration with employees across the organization, coworkers can begin to connect with their peers in various activities and collaborations.
- Encourage open communication: Organizations are better served when leaders value truth over flattery. Open communication is required to excel, but the environment has to be safe to communicate. By demonstrating constructive criticism and not destructive degradation, the stage is set to openly and regularly speak the truth.
- Promote and engage in social activities: Company activities and planned employee events are for all involved, including leadership. Leaders must prioritize recognizing and attending organizational events, making social engagement the cultural norm. When you have supportive, engaged connections at work you build a sense of camaraderie and togetherness that fills a void otherwise seem detached and lonely.
Generally speaking, we spend more of our waking hours at work than we do home. The element of having a friend to spend that time away from home with contributes to an organization's ability to attract and retain a more diversified workforce–as well as getting the most effective performance from your talent. Having a close friend at work directly affects why people engage at work.
Do you have a best friend at work to share lunch breaks, team meetings, and connection with? Are you a leader who promotes friendships in the workplace?
Share your stories with me about friendships at work–I’d love to hear your experiences.
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