Humans are social beings who need and crave human interaction. With most of our day spent at work, it only stands to reason that we can benefit from positive social interactions in the workplace. According to one Gallup poll, employees who have good or best friends in the workplace are more likely to be satisfied. Having a friend at work increases workplace loyalty and engagement, reducing stress and burn out, and increasing overall productivity.
So how can employers help employees build rewarding and lasting friendships at work?
Investing in social interactions is a good place to start, creating opportunities for employees to connect and work together as a team, getting to know and value each other.
The environment needs to be positive and safe to have the desired results. Begin by researching reputable team-building services and facilities available in your area. Limiting outings to staff, and not spouses or children, can help manage costs and encourage employees to interact with their coworkers rather than hide in their comfort zone.
Find out what interests your employees and build a social event around that. Culinary classes, walking groups, nature, movies, or team golfing. If you can plan a “healthy” activity without eliminating employee ability to participate, that’s even better.
Team events are great; they take the pressure off any one player (for example, best ball in golf) and create more opportunities for social interaction. Designing teams in advance, giving some thought to balancing skills and social aptitude will be beneficial. Try to include a mix of personalities on each team.
Lead by example. Management buy-in and participation are crucial. Focus on creating an environment where everyone feels welcome, appreciated and—most difficult of all—comfortable. For some employees, the idea of putting on a bathing suit or swinging a golf club is terrifying. Choose sports such as axe-throwing, where skill level can vary, but everyone will still have fun.
Have management emphasize the value of teamwork and the importance of collaboration. Effective managers understand the importance of positive team dynamics. Encourage healthy working relationships by identifying opportunities for employees to learn and share with each other. Sally may be good at PowerPoint and very creative whereas Bob may be very organized and technically savvy. Together they can create a fantastic presentation.
To facilitate daily interactions, create areas in the office or employee staff and break rooms where employees can interact without disrupting others. Nurture an environment where it is okay, even encouraged, to take a five-minute break to chat with a co-worker about your weekend or the football game. It takes effort and purpose to get up and interact, so providing a cold water station to refill water bottles or fruit bowl in a central location may help get employees moving around.
In a recent gratitude and happiness survey conducted by Plasticity Labs, when asked what they are grateful for employees responded “co-workers that I enjoy being around,” and “wonderful co-workers who are helpful and informative and act like friends.” Hopefully employers can take this one step further to change that to “who are friends.”