Many managers think that workplace friendships are a bad thing. They worry that if people are close friends, they will spend all of their time chatting instead of working. Although they understand that a good working relationship is important and helps productivity, a lot of bosses wrongly assume that anything more than that has a negative impact on the business. Well, you might not need work friendships but you certainly need teamwork to propel your business by supporting growth. Even if you’re working with a distributed workforce, teamwork is essential for success.
The truth is, workplace relationships are actually a great idea. It’s important that you create the right culture and work ethic so people understand that they still need to work hard. The problem isn’t with the relationships between your team, it’s with the culture you are creating. Creating a culture of work hard, play hard takes your work relationships to the next level, allowing relationships to smooth over potential misunderstandings and greases the wheels of collaboration.
When your employees are friendly with one another and spend time together outside of work, it benefits you and them in a number of ways. For instance, Google encourages relationships by distributing comfortable seating and refreshment centers. They also offer evening entertainment and meals on campus to encourage workers to spend their spare time with each other and bring in families so workers can balance their work and home life.
The benefits of employee relationships
If someone at work is really struggling, rather than their colleagues feeling awkward and doing nothing, they should reach out to support each other. Of course, that only happens when employees feel they won’t be judged for their problems and will offer support. Employees who are friends support one another when they need it most.
We talk about generalized reciprocity and that’s what makes teamwork work. By supporting each other, workers know they’ll get support when they need it from someone within the work environment.
Teamwork and collaboration are easier
If you’re friends with someone, you know how they work. You can predict their behavior and understand what they are thinking so you can promote your ideas and get cooperation using the right motivation. Knowing each other also means you know the strengths and weaknesses of each individual so you can tap the right people for each task needed to support the project. This means that team projects likely run more smoothly, as your employees have a good idea of the strengths each person possesses. Your staff will naturally want to support each other and collaborate, rather than wanting things done one way or another for no reason when you generate effective teamwork.
You don’t need people to be best friends to work as a team, but having a closer relationship does make things a lot easier.
Stress levels are reduced
People are happier when they feel supported, which means that their stress levels go down. This has benefits for your company as well as your employees. When people are stressed or unhappy, you have to deal with problems at work more often, their work suffers, and mistakes multiply. High-stress results in an increase in sick days and your staff retention rates could drop if they feel unsupported by the business. Having a better relationship with each other can reduce these sorts of issues.
As we become more aware of mental health issues in the workplace, it is more important than ever for bosses to find ways to help employees manage stress. Building a supportive network in the office and encouraging friendships is one of the best ways to do that.
Turnover is reduced
Your turnover rates drop if your staff are happy. High turnover rates mean you have to hire more new employees, which results in direct costs for job search and training but also results in indirect costs from lower productivity.
People are less likely to move to a new job if they have a lot of friends at work because they have more invested in the company. So, fostering friendships drastically increases employee loyalty.
Overall productivity increases
When your employees are happy and stress-free, they are more productive. They’ll get their work done without having to fight against a stressful environment or broken relationships, which means that you’ll see more output from them.
As well as increasing the amount of work that gets done each day, teamwork helps people with difficult tasks because they have extra support. So office friendships could actually make everyone in the company better at what they do.
How can you encourage teamwork?
Teamwork benefits you in so many ways, but you need to create an environment where employee relationships can easily flourish. These are some of the best ways to encourage teamwork around the office.
Host casual employee events
Team building events are a great way to forge good working relationships, but they are a bit formal for building friendships. So, you should also host some more casual events too, such as those mentioned at Google. Lunchtime sports teams, for example, are one of the best ways to get employees interacting naturally. Taking everybody out to a bar after work on a Friday night is great, too. These kinds of events give people more opportunities to chat and get to know one another.
Allow socializing at work
Allow your workers time to socialize informally at work. They shouldn’t be too busy to talk to each other between meetings and projects. This is how friendships at work thrive, after all. Obviously, you need limits to this but if people stop for two minutes in the hallway to chat, don’t discourage that interaction. You can lead by example and be friendlier around the office so people know that it’s ok.
Introduce a peer recognition program
People are more likely to be friendly with each other if they feel appreciated for their work. So, you should introduce a peer recognition program where your employees can praise one another. This kind of encouragement boosts performance and puts people in a better mood, too. Businesses often focus on recognition from managers to their staff, but employee recognition from peers is just as valuable.
Recognition goes a long way toward forming those connections that eventually turn into friendships. By changing the overall culture of the workplace and introducing more positive communication, you can foster more friendships.
Allow time for networking at meetings
While it’s important to keep meetings short, you should also allow time for personal chat too. If your employees are friends, they want to catch up between meetings rather than feel like they can’t talk because of them. You could also hold coffee meetings with everyone on the staff regularly. These kinds of events are great for making small talk and getting some friendly connections going.
Giving people a few minutes before you dive straight into the important stuff can make such a huge difference. It’s a great way to ease people into the day and put them in a good mood too, so it’s ideal for team meetings in the mornings. However, you need to make sure there is a clear divide so people understand that once the meeting has started, they need to focus and pay attention.
Promote collaboration between teams
You don’t just want people to be friends with people in their immediate team, you want to build connections throughout the business. That’s why it’s vital to promote collaboration between teams. This should take place across departments and can lead to great teamwork that eases collaboration. Not only does this help you build better relationships in the workplace, but it also opens up opportunities to create new projects that drive the business forward.
If you want to promote collaboration between departments you can start by having each department give a short presentation on their current work. This gives people a chance to see where there might contribute areas for collaboration so they can start thinking of project ideas.
Friendships in the workplace can lead to a happier and healthier life and work balance. They can also make your business more successful because people will be working together more effectively. It’s a big mistake to think that they damage productivity and if you are actively discouraging workplace friendships, you are harming your business.
By making the changes listed above, you can encourage stronger relationships in the workplace and everybody will benefit.
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