Why Friends At Work Are So Important

Aisling O’Toole dishes on the beauty of work wives.

“Did you hear the one about Sandra from HR and Paul from accounts? Well…”

While not a direct quote, this sort of conversation is the one heard in staff rooms, canteens and stock rooms the world over as workmates chat and move from colleagues to friends. But, gossip aside, did you know that having a best friend at work has been shown to increase productivity, reduce stress and improve our sense of overall work satisfaction? Which, when you think about it, makes sense.

Over the past few years, remote working has meant that teams are no longer chatting between clients, hanging around after morning meetings or gossiping over the coffee machine – which might go some way to explain recent survey results that show 72% of Australians have felt unhappy at work over the past year.

Unhappy workforce

As a business owner, an unhappy workforce is problematic as it means staff are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere. As a worker, being part of an unhappy workforce makes the day longer, makes you less likely to go above and beyond, and several times less likely to see career progression with your current employer. The result of both is that knowledge and experience are going to leave the business.

So what can you do? Much like hen parties and baby showers, organised team activities can only go so far, after all nobody likes required fun. Instead, businesses and workers looking to boost friendship in the workplace can try the following:

Be creative with communication

Think outside the box when it comes to staff communication. Instead of formal meetings and “reply all” email threads, try to encourage working lunches or walking meetings where people can relax and show up as themselves.

For virtual calls, insist all cameras are turned on and ask questions about any interruptions. They say never to work with children or animals, and never has a truer word been spoken than over the past two years, but an interruption from a child or dog makes a great conversation starter and a point of reference for future chats. 

Congratulate each other

Do you know your colleague is out today because their child is graduating? Is somebody from your team taking extended leave to get married, or has somebody just hit a personal goal across fitness or some other hobby?

If so, shout about it! Send a company email, say congratulations at the end of a meeting or share the news across a bulletin board in the staff room. By bringing our personal lives to the workplace, we start to foster real relationships and show up as our true selves – which increases workplace satisfaction and company performance.

Organise events

And start small! Nobody wants to go on an outdoor pursuits weekend with people they don’t know, but they might go for an extended lunch on a Friday afternoon or stay late on a Thursday night to enjoy a glass of bubbles and some nibbles with colleagues. Building a team and increasing friendships throughout the workplace takes time, so it’s important to let relationships flourish naturally while providing opportunities for growth.

Show personality

It can be hard in retail and beauty jobs to showcase personality – after all there is no desk area to decorate with personal photos or other trinkets, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Encourage your team to decorate their locker with things that showcase their personality – encouraging questions from team mates.

And for staff, decorating communal areas can make for small talk conversation starters. A Halloween theme works at this time of year or try balloons and bunting for a team birthday or celebration. You want to showcase your own personality and that of your team to encourage conversation away from the professional.

Choose wisely

If you’re currently unhappy with your teammates, then it could be time for a change. Why not look for a role at a company known for great morale and team building? Great workplace cultures are known to boost employee engagement and motivation, and this matters because a positive work environment allows employees to feel valued and respected.

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This article was produced in partnership with Jobbio.

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