Work can be quite demanding sometimes, so having an office buddy who can share the load and keep things fun is really important. A study by Gallup shows that work friendships can lead to better business too. It says that employees with a colleague as a BFF are ‘significantly more likely to engage customers and internal partners, get more done in less time, support a safe workplace with fewer accidents and reliability concerns, innovate and share ideas.’ Friends are good for us all.
Finding that friend and building those bonds doesn’t happen by accident though, particularly in the age of hybrid when we’re not together 100% of the time. It takes planning and a positive culture that encourages and facilitates personal connections. Bosses have an important role to play in creating this space and fostering a sense of camaraderie among their teams.
The friendship schedule
Scheduled friendship events, organised fun, bonding sessions – it might be enough to make some people want to hand in their notice and run for the hills. But handled correctly these moments can help to build a proactive company culture. It could be as simple as giving people a bit more time during meetings to chat, lightening the mood with tea and biscuits or simply asking direct questions like “how was your weekend?” Or you could go all out and plan an away day filled with team building exercises.
The Gallup article suggests an uncontroversial team lunch, which is a great way to start. In fact a study by Cornell University suggests that sharing lunch can play an important part in boosting employee morale as well as opening up space for friendships to spark. “Eating together is a more intimate act than looking over an Excel spreadsheet together. That intimacy spills back over into work,” said the study’s author, Kevin Kniffin.
The group chat
Hybrid working has completely changed the professional landscape – people aren’t always in the same place at the same time. Stats show that the effects are overwhelmingly positive with hybrid workers being healthier, happier, and more productive — but it does mean that we need to be more proactive about building those personal connections. The group chat is a perfect place for this. It’s easy to sit back quietly, only speak when spoken to (or when someone @s your name), but some basic cheer can go a long way. A friendly check-in before a meeting, or an “are you ok with that?” supportive message can be just as useful and positive as the in-person chat on the tea run or in the lift up to the office.
Tone of voice
According to a survey by JobSage, one in five Americans say they have no friends at work. While this statistic highlights the need for employers to consider ways of bringing people together, it also presents an opportunity to improve workplace connections. One way is to effectively judge and set the office tone of voice. Staff need to know if it’s ok to be informal, and that they won’t be thought of as unprofessional. That silence before a meeting starts can easily be filled with quick personal updates that won’t impact on the amount of work being done. And that weekly email, where you run through the week’s figures and news, could also include some happy birthdays or congratulations. It’s about “creating a culture where friendly dialogue is the norm”, the Gallup article adds.
Work in common areas
Of course, for many people, hybrid working means that they are not necessarily working alongside people from their own companies. Coworking spaces can have myriad professionals in one place, and are a melting pot of networking opportunities, inspiration and potential friendships.
Many people now split their working days between the head office and a satellite office closer to home – wherever you find yourself, try to pick a place to work that is communal. Our offices are designed to have interactive spaces where stopping for a chat happens naturally. There are also events where people can stop by for a drink. Café-style tables or lounge areas show people that you are open for a chat, but there are also the private offices for when you need to get your head down.
In office days
Working from home definitely has some upsides, such as the flexibility to work in your own environment and the ability to take a break whenever needed. But it isn’t good for making friends. Consider setting a hybrid work policy with a minimum number of days each week for employees to work from an office — this could be your company HQ or a coworking space closer to their home. Encourage them to share where they will be and when, so that colleagues can meet them, and ensure that these are considered collaborative work days.
Friendships can’t be forced, but they don’t come from nothing either. Structured socialising might sound unromantic or awkward, but it works. And when so many people say they don’t have any work friends, it’s clearly time to take some action.
Find out how Spaces can help to build human connections and boost your team’s morale and creativity.