Close Friendships at Work: Why It's About More than Just Being Social

friendships at work

Eid has been full of activities with family and also friends. Now is time to go back to our regular work routine. What about having those friendships at work?

A growing body of research supports the benefits of a best friend on the job, and it’s not just about growing a person’s social network. It’s about being more than just social.

Summarizing the Research on Friends at Work

Several studies support the importance of having close friends on the job. Data collected by The Gallup Organisation points to the advantages of establishing an encouraging relationship in the workplace. The multiyear research, cited in the Gallup Business Journal, suggests that working alongside a best friend can increase the engagement levels of these employees, and they are more likely to stay with the company.

The reason for the loyalty that these employees generally feel toward the company stems from the quality relationships they form there. The closeness of the relationship is an important distinction to make here. The co-workers are not casual communicators but instead close friends. The relationship is deep, rather than surface level.


Implications for Your Organisation

What does the recent Gallup research mean for your organisation? The incentive is there for you to foster a company environment that encourages close friendships. Your company is then more likely to enjoy higher employee retention rates as the employees want to maintain their deep friendships. They have a personal investment in the company.

As well, trust is high in these workers, as a result of the meaningful friendships they have formed, and we know that trust is a key component of retention. When your employees have mutual trust, then they are more likely to have confidence in them when times get tough on the job. Feeling less alone and, instead, part of a supportive network is a reason for wanting to stay in at a particular company.


Linking Employee Health and Friendships

The research also reveals that having a best friend at work has health benefits. Those people with close friendships within an organization are more likely to practice healthy stress management. This point is important to any business manager because employees who are less stressed are better able to focus on the tasks at hand on the job.

In the previously mentioned analysis, Gallop also found that best friends had better stress management than did workers who did not have these close relationships, even when the stress levels were the same between them.

As a side note, an employee’s ability to manage stress well, at least partially because of best friends at work, also helps drive down the rate at which your employees take time off work as sick days. In turn, your organisational productivity rate can increase as there are more hours of workers on the job. Plus, these workers are highly efficient because of their focused efforts.


In the Arab Culture

For companies with Arab employees, the importance of having a best friend at work may be even more important than in other parts of the world. Why is this? A key reason is that Arab culture puts a high value on family-like relationships.

In the Middle East, the family is a very important part of life, and this concept includes work life. My recent read of Dr. Tommy Weir’s clever book 10 Tips for Leading in the Middle East reminded me of the truth of this characteristic of much of the Arab world.

With a high importance put on work relationships, as being as valuable as bonds with blood relatives, leaders of companies that are part of the Arab culture would be wise to encourage familial-type relations between workers to gain allegiance from the toward the company. They are then less likely to leave the company.


When Implementing Change Programs

When a company utilises change programs, trust is important to have within the organisation. While changes within a company are occurring, managers often try to maintain employee morale, as well as to assist them in understanding and accepting alterations in the system. This was exactly what managers did at UK’s National Health Service (NHS) when they led the transformations of their services with the organisations.

Given the importance of trust in the process of change, it becomes evident that managers should take steps to strengthen trust among employees to keep them on board the company. Here is yet another reason to support having a best friend at work. As we have already established, close friendships build trust. So, the trusting friends can work together in support of the company and be willing to stick with it through the system changes. The importance of having a support system is clear.


Human Friendships & Technology

If you are wondering whether human friendships are replaceable with technology, it is not likely to happen. And if it did, it would not be for the benefit of an organisation.

While many companies are digitalizing their everyday activities, computers cannot take the place of human friendships that collaborate to better the organisations as a whole. A human-centred focus on collaboration can be adaptable and comprehensive in ways that technology simply cannot do.

Also, think of technology as a tool used by humans rather than as a means to the end on its own. Skype is an example. Skype saves companies money and time on a daily basis, enabling co-workers to have virtual meetings without having to travel to meet in the same physical room to have these conferences. But, if effective human-to-human collaboration does not occur, there is no amount of technology that can fix this problem.

When employees form close friendships, they can work more effectively as teams, with the aid of technology, to meet project deadlines and overarching organisational objectives. The teams of friends can come up with creative solutions and use technologies to put those plans into motion effectively to better the overall company.


The Value of Best Friends at Work

As is evidenced above, the benefits of having a best friend at work cannot be overstated. From advancing technologies to strengthening the success of change programs, improving employee health, and positively impacting productivity levels, there is so much to be gained when managers encourage close friendships amongst employees.

A lasting note concerns the element of creativity. A friendly work environment is likely to be one that is more creative than an aloof one. The reason being is primarily because when a person feels comfortable, then he or she is more likely to be genuine and true to oneself. At this point, he or she can think outside of the box more easily.

If you have previously discouraged close friendships in the workplace, now you know that there is an immense benefit to best friends. Use the above tips to create a friendly space for employees, particularly if you are in a family-oriented culture like the Middle East. At Connecting Perspectives, we offer a range of strategies to help foster better communication within an organisation.

As you see the friendships grow stronger at work, watch many of the benefits explained here arise. Best friends provide a great reason for both managers and employees to smile.