Do you have a best friend at work? It’s a question that caused controversy when initially included in a Gallup poll on workplace productivity. Many people felt that the concept of a ‘best friend’ was at odds with their concept of work. But the question has been included in a list of 12 key dimensions that describe a great workforce . Why? Because friends work better together than acquaintances.
Groups of friends are more productive and have better decision making abilities than acquaintances when working together. Friends are more cooperative, give more positive feedbackand are more committed to the task at hand . Friendship in the workplace may also help to reduce stress. The more social support people feel when faced with a stressful challenge, the less likely they are to feel stressed. Importantly, social support from colleagues is more important for reducing workplace stress-related exhaustion than social support from external friends and family . This may be because colleagues can offer practical support in dealing with a stressful workload that family and friends cannot.
Although the benefits of friendship in work are plenty many of us may still feel that the concept of a best friend does not fit with our experience. We may have friends in work but not best friends. The difference may not necessarily matter. Other studies show that having a workplace that merely provides opportunities for friendship with work colleagues improves job satisfaction, commitment to the organization and reduces staff turnover . This is an important note for managers and anyone involved in organising workplace structures. Creating opportunities for friendship between work colleagues is something that is worth putting time into. People are by nature sociable creatures and merely creating physical spaces where people can gather at break times can help to nurture friendships in the workplace. Some companies create online environments where colleagues can chat informally and many organise outings or breaks to build social support. Even introducing a personal element into the workplace, such as celebrating staff birthdays and other milestones, can foster a sense of belonging and engagement. There are many ways, big and small, to help build friendships in work but the payoffs, a happier more productive workforce, will far outweigh the effort.
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