Just as in other areas of life, work friendships can drive a wealth of positive outcomes. Unfortunately, only 20% of US employees strongly agree that they have a best friend at work.
This is a missed opportunity, because 21% of people believe that work friendships make them more creative. 22% feel more productive with friends, and 57% feel it makes work more enjoyable. So why do so few of us have work friendships nowadays?
It’s not always easy to foster work friendships in the modern world. This is especially true if you have a remote team or distributed workforce. So here are some strategies to support work friendships and reap the benefits for both employees and your bottom line:
Employee groups are one of the best ways to connect your team members with like-minded people.
You can set up a group for anything. Whether that’s a location, a skill, a favorite TV show, pets, or something else.
It’s then up to the group’s organizer(s) to set up activities and discussions for members to take part in. They’re totally flexible, which means there are infinite possibilities for you and your employees.
These communities can also go a long way towards furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion. For instance, employee resource groups are a great way to create spaces for team members with shared backgrounds, ethnicities, and/or life experiences to connect.
Pairing people for one-on-one chats
One-on-one chats are another easy way for people to get to know their colleagues.
There are lots of approaches you could take to organizing this. From having an employee experience manager who connects people with similar interests, to a chat channel or krowd where people can request meetups, or even having managers play matchmaker.
No, I don’t mean those terrible ice breakers that cause everyone to panic because they don’t know what to say, so they pay no attention to what anyone else is saying and it defeats the point of them. Instead, I mean fun activities that encourage teamwork and out-of-the-box thinking.
To find something that will resonate with your team, ask them what they’d like to do.
Maybe it’s axe throwing, or darts, or archery. Or something that doesn’t involve sharp objects. (I keep getting ads for axe throwing at a new venue nearby, which is why it’s on my mind, in case you were worried about me for a minute.)
Providing opportunities to bond around shared experiences is a standard approach to fostering work friendships.
Book or film club
When we love something, we want to share it with others. Book clubs or film clubs are a great way to share those things with other people. I’ve made many friends from sharing a love of a particular book series, TV show, or film.
You could offer clubs for specific platforms or genres. That way employees know the people in that group are exposed to similar things and can offer other recommendations they may enjoy.
Talking about nothing in particular is often underestimated, but it can be an effective way to get to know someone.
It doesn’t have to happen around a literal watercooler anymore, either. It can be a virtual one, in a digital space that’s designed for thoughts, observations, or anything else that’s unrelated to work.
Beyond collaborating on projects, simply chatting is the way work friendships have always formed.
Our dog is almost always present when I’m on a call because she gets FOMO if I close the door on her. As a result, she usually makes a cameo and says hi to everyone, particularly if she hasn’t met them before.
Including her is a great ice breaker that puts everyone at ease.
It’s a nice reminder that, no matter what the topic, we’re all human. And it doesn’t matter what your job is, your pet will never care so long as you can give them attention and food.
Providing a place for people to share about their pets is a great way to give colleagues insight into each others’ personal lives. This type of sharing that extends outside the bounds of the workplace is a great way to support work friendships.
Parenting is hard. Having people who get it, who are going through it, or who’ve been there, can be key to staying sane.
Why not put together a parenting affinity group? Or have regular conversations set up for people who want to discuss parenting life with other parents?
You could take it one step further and have spaces for adoption, fostering, pregnancy, etc. These all come with unique challenges. Knowing you’re not alone when battling them can ease some of the strain and stress involved. This can make not only people’s work-lives easier, but also their home lives.
Being ill all the time—or even temporarily—really sucks. And most of the time, we don’t want to bog our colleagues or loved ones down by whining about how we’re feeling.
Or, we get stuck in a negative cycle about our situation and end up feeling like we’ll never get better.
Having a safe space where employees can talk about their health challenges can really help them connect with people in similar situations, easing some of the emotional burden.
With the right people in charge, it can encourage a positive atmosphere where employees can seek support and solutions, rather than spiral in their helplessness.
The atmosphere is key, because long-term health challenges can eat you up inside if you’re not careful.
But, if you can encourage people to treat each other with kindness and respect, it can be rewarding and insightful. And of course, work friendships can bring both mental and physical health benefits!
These can be really good for meeting new people. A team organizes it, explains the rules, then splits everyone up into small groups of no more than five people.
Then, everyone gets to share a little about themselves and any challenges they may be facing, before deciding what problem or solution to work on.
This encourages cooperation between teams, gives employees insight into other departments, and generates ideas that may not have otherwise appeared. Plus, the creation and collaboration process can build work friendships that extend beyond the surface.
Internal networking event
If in doubt, why not set up a good old-fashioned networking event at your HQ? Or somewhere near where many of your employees work?
They don’t have to be huge and expensive to put together (although they can be if you prefer). You don’t even need a speaker if you don’t want one.
The key is to find somewhere with a comfortable atmosphere, some munchies, and a diverse group of people.
Work friendships are hugely powerful. The more you encourage employees to develop them, the happier they’ll be in their roles. And, the more your business will benefit as a result.
The world of work has changed, leaving many people feeling isolated. Accordingly, we need new ways of building up these connections.
An all-in-one platform like Workrowd gives employees a central place to connect across an array of interests and activities. Plus, real-time analytics make it easy to see what’s driving belonging and work friendships.
If you’re ready to tap into all the benefits that come from a more connected workforce, visit us online or drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org today.