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Encouraging friendships in the workplace

Teams who play together stay together. It’s said that people who have a ‘best friend at work’ are likely to be happier and healthier, but also seven times as likely to be engaged in their job. What’s more, employees who report having friends at work have higher levels of productivity and job satisfaction than those who don’t. They are also likely to be less stressed and more loyal to their company.

So this begs the question, is your workplace friendly and sociable? Do people get along well with each other? Is there a sense of camaraderie? It can make all the difference if so. It’s good for employees to have others to talk to when times are tough and celebrate with when things are going well. 

Work is a great opportunity for people to meet friends, build a supportive network and even help beat loneliness, which is, sadly, a growing problem. So if you think your workplace could do with a friendlier, more sociable atmosphere, we’ve put together our top tips on how to achieve this:

  1. Organise social activities & events
    Organising social activities outside of work is an obvious way to help colleagues bond. Getting people together for team lunches and celebrations regularly can help create a friendly work environment. If there’s a social committee or group at your company, make sure that all employees know about it and how they can join.

    If there isn’t already a social committee at your company, you could set one up by forming a group of people who take responsibility for organising regular activities. As examples, you could consider setting up company sports teams or other hobby groups for people to join. Getting involved in charity fundraising challenges, such as Bring It On 4 Ben, is another great way of bringing people together to do something fun and rewarding for a good cause.

  2. Encourage proper lunch breaks
    A study by totaljobs showed that over half of employees (56%) don’t take their full lunch breaks because they feel work is too busy. Not only is that bad for their health and productivity, but it also could get in the way of bonding opportunities with colleagues. So, whenever possible, encourage your employees to make full use of their breaks.

  3. Create social spaces
    If you have space and don’t already have one, you could create a shared social area (or areas) in which employees can relax together. If you don’t have the space or budget for a kitchen or canteen, try putting some comfy chairs around a separated section of the office. This will encourage people to socialise together at lunch times instead of eating a lonely sandwich at their desks. 

  4. Welcome new starters with a buddy
    To encourage friendships between new and current employees, you could start up a buddy system. This means that every new member of staff has a ‘buddy’ for the first week or two who is responsible for introducing them to the company, the team and gets them involved in any social events. This can be a good way to help new starters integrate quickly into the team. You could even suggest a get together with the team whenever a new person joins.

  5. Keep remote workers involved
    If you have employees who work remotely or are frequently travelling on business it’s important to make them feel connected. Remote working is becoming a popular option in many companies, thanks to the flexibility it affords. However, it can also be an isolating experience for some. Remote workers miss out on day-to-day office interactions which can leave them feeling disconnected from their colleagues and company.

    Use the phone, skype or video call to communicate with remote workers instead of email sometimes. After all, if you’re on your own it’s nice to hear another human voice! Similarly, bring remote workers into regular team meetings over video so they feel included. You can also encourage them to join a hub or communal workspace in their local area so they can experience an office environment if they want to. Finally, organise in-person catch ups or team events several times a year if possible.

  6. Get different departments chatting
    It’s common for organisations to have specialised departments that work in isolation from each other. However, a great way to make people feel better connected at work is to encourage more communication, co-operation and camaraderie between teams. So take the time to introduce teammates from different departments to each other so they have the opportunity for social interaction.

    Linking up departments will give employees a fuller understanding of the business as a whole and help them work more creatively, approaching problems from new angles. It will also encourage employees to get to know people across the organisation creating a better sense of belonging.

  7. Encourage face to face communication
    Thanks to modern technology, even if you make it to the office, that’s no guarantee of face-to-face human interaction. Nowadays, most people will email a colleague rather than ask a question in person, and many spend their break times on their phones. This means that employees are missing out on the small interactions that help people to feel socially connected and build strong working relationships. It can also be less efficient. Studies suggest that a face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an email. How many confusing email chains have you seen that could have been cleared up with a quick conversation?

    So next time you’re reviewing your communications policy, beware of relying too heavily on team messaging systems such as Slack or Skype messenger. While they definitely have their place, encourage your employees to have face-to-face discussions and team catch ups as well when possible to promote better communication and forge stronger bonds.

  8. Share our resources
    If you think anyone in your team could do with some tips about making friends in the workplace or outside of the workplace, we have two articles to help – how to make friends as an adult part one and part two.

    If you’re concerned about loneliness in your team, find more information and advice about this issue on our webpage: www.ben.org.uk/loneliness, including an article about how to create friendships that last.

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