Though most of us are still reluctant to admit it, we spend more time at work than we do at home (no – sleeping doesn’t count). Yet the term “work family” is mostly just used by Prime Time TV and sappy Hallmark cards, and not in the workplace. In fact, employees are often discouraged from forming relationships with their coworkers by managers who believe having friendships in the office will interfere with the work itself. We are here to argue just the opposite.
Based on this article from the Harvard Business Review, research has shown that employees are much happier in their jobs when they have friendships with co-workers. Employees report that when they have friends at work, their job is more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile, and satisfying. Additionally, close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by up to 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.
Another article in Forbes Magazine pointed out that those who develop close friendships at work improve their productivity and performance, get more recognition, and are overall happier in their profession. Such friendships are also found to positively impact retention.
Still not convinced? Let’s think about this for a moment.
You have two employees in a similar role at different companies. The employee at Company X has been directed by management to steer clear from forming any friendships with coworkers as it may “distract him from his work.” This employee spends his entire day segregating himself from others and focusing 100% of his time and energy on his daily routine. The second employee at Company Y works in an environment where fun is encouraged through contests and competitions, team-building exercises, and employee outings. This employee has fostered several friendships with coworkers and has a support system both at and outside of work.
Which employee do you think is happier? More engaged and productive? More likely to stay with the company?
Now, think about your own work history. I’m willing to bet that when you reflect on your favorite or most enjoyable jobs, you think more about the people you worked with than the tasks on your daily checklist. Whether you had an awesome boss you could talk to about anything, a close coworker you hung out with on the weekends, or subordinates you met for happy hour, chances are you were much more connected and engaged at work than if you had no relationships with your coworkers.
Whether we want to believe it or not, the people we work with have a huge impact on our happiness and performance at work. Employees should be encouraged to form such bonds with their coworkers and employers should foster an environment where teamwork, social activities, and fun are encouraged. Otherwise, you may find decreased engagement, productivity, and longevity!