Like it or not, work friendships matter. Something as seemingly simple as having a good relationship with your co-workers can benefit you, your team, the company you work for and, naturally, your professional life.
It’s okay. Some of your work friendships might not be as strong or long-lasting as some other friendships, but that doesn’t mean they are any less important. Just like some of your friends push you to be the best version of yourself, some work friends inspire a greater loyalty and commitment at work in us.
Additionally, the connections you build at work could be some of the most diverse and unexpected. With varying ages, nationalities and sometimes even locations, having something like a company in common can be a great way for the most unlikely connections to happen. People you may have had no reason to talk to in the past suddenly find their way into your life and team. Our advice? Embrace it! Here’s why.
The Science Behind Work Friendships
Happy employees are more productive, this is generally true and one of the reasons why work friendships matter. Even before the pandemic, Gallup consistently found that having a best friend at work leads to better performance. The study shows that when there is a “deep sense of affiliation” between employees and their team members, there’s a drive to act in the benefit of their employers in ways that would not be there without those connections.
This, says Gallup, makes women specifically less likely to go looking to change jobs if they have a best friend at work. It also makes them more likely to take risks that could lead to something innovative, to enjoy what they do, and to have a positive experience during the day. This means that having good relationships at work will not only make employees more productive and more likely to work harder, but it will also make them enjoy what they do and look forward to their workday. It’ll make them happier.
Work friendships matter so much, in fact, that they speak to greater employee well-being, engagement and performance.
Remote Work Friendships
We get it. Making new work friendships got more complicated after everything went remote during the pandemic. Remote work changed the dynamic of our office relationships. It made them go from friendships that happened effortlessly during work hours to another kind of relationship that suddenly required us to be much more intentional. To make an effort to stay in touch and maybe find other shared interests.
A 2020 study by BGC showed that employees who reported satisfaction with social connectivity with their colleagues were two to three times more likely to have maintained or improved their productivity on collaborative tasks than those who are dissatisfied with their connections. Unfortunately, without those shared spaces where people can spontaneously interact every day, some of those friendships have faded. Considering that work friendships can have such an important impact on productivity, companies and team leaders should prioritize building and maintaining strong social ties between employees. And they should create spaces for hybrid employees to feel at home and connect on the days when they spend time at the office.
Take Advantage of New Opportunities to Interact
It’s true that hybrid workspaces have made some office relationships harder to maintain, but it also creates unique opportunities to interact. Being on lockdown meant that the people who started new jobs during the pandemic became friends with people they’d never been in the same room with. It’s not impossible, technology does make it easier, and you don’t even need daily zoom meetings to connect when there are memes, and TikToks and an endless amount of shareable content online. It’s easier to break the ice now than it ever has been, so make sure you are taking advantage of it.
Hybrid workplaces have forced managers to have a more hands-on approach with their employees. But it’s not just managers. If everyone is staying connected through instant messaging services or even just email chains, it’s probably easier for you to not only have access to managers, but to everyone else on the team. Make plans, go out for coffee or a drink. Create your own water cooler moments and talk to people, even if it seems you may not have much in common with them. Maybe you’ll learn something. Or you’ll find a friend.
Taking Care of Work Friendships
Work friendships matter and you’ll have to put some time into them, especially if you’re mostly remote. Make sure you’re making room for these friendships to grow and keep in mind that as any other relationship, these friendships can’t be forced. Just let them happen. Find a neutral ground and go from there. And maybe give yourself the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone(s) and diversify your work friendships. Plan to hang out with your work colleagues for no reason other than spending time with each other every now and then.
Make sure your work friends are really inspiring and boosting your engagement and morale. And since it will likely take an extra effort, try to find people who are willing to make the same effort in return. Individuals who make sure you’re being heard, who can be your sounding board, and hold you accountable when needed. Work friends who will make going into the office or joining an online call something to look forward to. These relationships bring meaning to the workplace, they add purpose and improve not just the quality of work, but also your mental health and your quality of life.