As a student pursuing her Post Graduate Diploma in Advertising and Marketing, Neeta secured an internship offer from one of the city’s leading ad firms. After a few months of dedicated work, when Neeta was asked to recommend someone who could fit the company’s client servicing requirement, she was quick to send Varsha's resume - who happened to be her best friend from college.
Varsha and Neeta got along like a house on fire during college. They had shared interests and hobbies and instantly clicked when they met. When Varsha finally got the job, Neeta was the one celebrating harder. She now had a ‘go-to’ person at work for everything from office gossip to work concerns. The best part was that they could ‘look out’ for each other, unlike other colleagues who would pursue their interests first and push office politics over everything else.
Both Neeta and Varsha looked forward to working in general, and loved their coffee break chats, water cooler gossips and shared lunch. It helped them stay confident and motivated in solving each others problems.
Their bosses realised that all the employee engagement manuals had missed out a key factor – having a best friend at work could go a long way in boosting productivity.
According to a study by Gallup, people who have a “best friend at work” are not only more likely to be healthier and happier but seven times more likely to be engaged in their job. They also have a higher level of productivity and job satisfaction than others who don’t share such friendships at work.
Come to think of it, most people spend a significant chunk of their day (8 to 9 hours) at the workplace. Subsequently, a positive workplace connection can play a big part in improving their productivity and health. But like everything else, this too has a flip side. There is a chance that friendships will be strained when a conflict (inevitably) arises. Problems also occur if friends are put into competing roles, and one eventually gets promoted. Would it be easy to accept a friend as a manager? It all comes down to how good the friendship is and if it can withstand the pressures of the workplace to survive and grow stronger.
Also, cultural differences play a huge role in fostering work friendships. A survey by Researchgate showed that only 12% American respondents were likely to share close ties with workmates. Less than 6% would go on a vacation with a workmate. Compared to this, more than half of Indians have vacationed with their co-workers.
Even so, it is evident that nurturing workplace friendships is a great strategy for companies. A study showed that 75% employees who have a best friend at work feel they can take anything on. The obvious question is ‘Why?’ How does friendship affect productivity and engagement at work? Let's understand these reasons better.
A Surprising Way To Boost Productivity: Encouraging Work-Friendships In Your Organisation
One of the reasons why having a friend at work helps boost productivity could be that friendship promotes communication and well-being. This well-being extends to other interactions at work, prompting more positive outcomes. Given that the friend becomes a confidante to share personal and professional issues with, it becomes easier for the employee to focus on work rather than dealing with bottled-up emotions. Additionally, it could foster healthy competition, thereby raising the bar for performance at work across the organisation.
As a company, there are quite a few things you can do to create an informal environment to encourage work-friendships. Here's what you could do!
Things You Could Do To Encourage Work-Friendships In Your Organisation
Let's look at a list of all the things you could incorporate into the workplace to provide an environment that fosters friendship amongst coworkers.
1. A Rotating ‘Chief Fun Officer’ For The Team:
While fun is something that can’t be contrived, you need to create opportunities for it to manifest in the workplace. The CFO can be given a free hand to choose activities that the team can enjoy during the month. From organising movie outings to pyjama days to painting competitions to potlucks, the Fun Officer can keep everyone guessing and engaged on what’s coming next. You can even get them custom lapel pins which they can wear during the month
2. Hangout Pockets At The Workplace
Water coolers and copy machines have long been conversation starting points. Additionally, you could simply throw in a few bean bags and a coffee machine near a window, and designate it as the 'official hangout place'. This could also be a great place for 'ice-breakers' and informal team meetings to brainstorm for solutions, or simply catch up over coffee.
3. Going Beyond Work
Employees often value employers who are passionate about bringing about a change in the lives of those less fortunate. By tying up with different charities, employees can be allowed to volunteer time at a charity of their choice. As a show of goodwill, companies can pick up the travel tab for such endeavours. While this ups the organisation's 'corporate social responsibility' quotient, it doubles up as an opportunity for employees to build lasting friendships over shared goals and interests.
4. Team dinners
Food is a great leveller. With the number of new restaurants opening these days, employees find an avenue to catch up on informal chit-chat over dinner and a couple of drinks. Dinner can be more than an evening out. For example, you can organise a Greek theme dinner with Greek food specialities that suit the local palate. You can also run a contest to crown the Greek Gods (of various themes that fit your office) in your team by anonymous voting and announce the winners during the dinner. If you need a fun trophy as the award, you can reach out to Engrave Awards who can customise one for you. This is a win-win situation for you, in terms of encouraging bonding between employees, and instilling a sense of healthy competition.
5. Team Offsites
Sometimes, you need a different setting for ideas to germinate. A team offsite is where you get all your employees to see the larger picture and align with the company’s vision and their journey in the coming year. During the offsite, pair people to brainstorm ideas and work as a team, especially those who’ve never worked together before. Offsites need not be all work. Beach evenings and bonfires by the tents at night can add the much-needed relaxation to a day’s hard work.
6. Team Retreats
Retreats work great when combined with an offsite. Once all the work needed for the offsite is tackled, the team members can proceed to have a couple of days for themselves where they informally plan out site seeing and other activities. For example, you could organise your offsite at the Andaman Islands, and once it’s done, everyone can move out to explore the beaches and islands for a couple of days.
7. Celebrating Festivals At Work
A lot of festivals don't translate into holidays for employees. However, you can find a way to have a small celebration in the workplace, to cheer them up. It can be around food, decorating their desks or even a dress code. Festivals tend to bring people closer and strengthen their bonds. It's best to postpone or prepone the celebrations, and not conduct them ON the day of the festival - The day of the festival could be declared a holiday! That's something an employee would treasure over everything else!
8. Sports Day
Sports brings out a competitive spirit among colleagues. With a particular emphasis on tag-team competitions, you can foster team spirit and friendships during the game. You can also put people together in the organising committee to get the conversation going. To encourage employees to participate, you could offer unique rewards and trophies, as shown below, to the winning teams/individuals.
9. Fitness and Well-being Initiatives
A healthy body and calm mind make people more tolerant of each other and receptive to feedback. Initiating fitness classes after office hours creates an informal environment to bond after work.
10. Courses That Can Be Taken Together
When you get back to a classroom as students, it is a great way to remember the fun from school days. From bunking class to sweating over exams, the little fun elements are savoured as adults. Just like best friends from school are never forgotten, friendships built in classrooms can become a lasting bond.
The entire exercise nurturing friendships at work is to improve productivity, engagement and loyalty at work eventually. Even though there is no direct way to measure tangible results, it is essential to maintain high-level metrics that allow you to see the effectiveness of these activities. Put together a tracking sheet that maps actions and productivity quarter on quarter. This will help you to plan and focus on engagement activities you can take up in the future.
If you are looking for unique ways to recognise and reward your employees, get in touch with Engrave today!