3 August, 2020
How Workplace Friendships Impact Employee Engagement
To reach its’ annual findings on employee engagement metrics, Gallup asks a regular question that remains highly debated- Do you have a best friend at work? In a 2018 follow up study, they acknowledged that while the question seemed simple on the surface, it often elicited the strongest response from participants, particularly from managers who remain convinced that work equations and personal relationships should be treated separately. Why then do so many imminent researchers in the field continue to explore this topic? The answer is simple- workplace friendships are found to have a significant positive impact on an employee’s engagement with a firm, an impact found across industries, geographies and functions.
For many professionals, their friends at work are their lifeline, the bond that makes them want to show up every day, solve new problems and laugh about the ones they couldn’t solve. More importantly, they keep them motivated and feel more connected to their work and organization as a whole. An employee who has forged friendships with their colleagues is 7 times more likely to be engaged in their job than those who do not enjoy the same privilege. 58% of men surveyed by a boutique consultancy would refuse a higher paying job if it meant not getting along with their colleagues. The same survey showed a staggering 74% women making the same choice. The need for friendships in the workplace is even higher for today’s millennial generation. With 50-hour work weeks and increased physical distance from family members and hometowns, the office often becomes the only avenue to beat loneliness. Most millennials consider the strength of their bonds with their colleagues the most important factor in judging their job satisfaction. Thus, workplace friendships not only foster a collaborative and positive environment, but also play a role in boosting the emotional and mental well-being of an employee.
From an employer’s standpoint, the more engaged and happy employees are, the more dedication they will show to their jobs. A firm that boasts of strong ties amongst team members also has a significant advantage when it comes to employee retention. This is because while monetary compensation can remain unchanged between two companies, an employee enjoys a powerful support system in your firm that is not necessarily guaranteed elsewhere. Thus, an employer must make an active effort to help foster these friendships and not just believe that they will organically develop.
To encourage these friendships, employers must try to boost collaboration amongst employees and encourage them to get to know one another on a deeper, more personal level. Having an employee engagement platform can help accomplish this, even for remote teams. With the publication of recognitions, birthdays, long service anniversaries and even with contests like talent shows and bingo nights, employers can encourage conversations outside of mundane tasks. With an easy-to-use ‘Group Events’ feature and an extensive online gifting portal, teams can collectively celebrate milestones with little logistical effort that may usually create a hurdle. Employers can use an engagement platform to create forums where employees with common interests can exchange thoughts, ideas and can learn from each other. Moreover, employers are able to measure this obscure metric of ‘employee bonding’ through regular reports and top-down transparency on collaboration patterns between different teams and departments.
Loyalty towards colleagues automatically translates in loyalty towards a brand. Thus, the easiest way to increase ‘employee engagement’ within a firm is increasing engagement amongst the employees first.