Do you have a close friend at work? Research from job hunting platform Good&Co shows that 65 percent of workers maintain a tight-knit friendship with at least one co-worker. These types of relationships can boost employee satisfaction and engagement, and it shows. Good&Co's researchers found that 54 percent of employers believe strong work relationships help improve company culture.
"Relationships matter because they help us feel connected, making us more motivated and productive," Catherine Fisher, LinkedIn's senior director of global integrated marketing and communications, wrote in a blog post. "It's much easier to share feedback with someone if you have built up a solid rapport, or ask someone for advice if you have invested in the relationship."
The research showed that employees increasingly value a positive social and cultural environment at work, nearly as much as good compensation. About 36 percent of workers say they look forward to going to work when they work with a friend, and 31 percent feel stronger and more valued. The researchers found that people with a best friend at work are 7 times more likely to be fully engaged and productive. On the flipside, isolated workers tend to harbor negative emotions which can be counterproductive and damaging to that employee's contributions to the overall team. An engaging, friendly environment is key to reaching out to those employee's who would otherwise find themselves isolated and disconnected from the larger group.
Workplace friendships don't just stay in the workplace, either. After work hours 59 percent of office friends communicate face-to-face, 50 percent speak with one another via a messaging app, and 42 percent interact on social media. Work friends, then, are often real life friends. Translating that support to the workplace can be vital for many employees.
"I'm not suggesting we all start texting our managers at any hour about our latest crush or favorite new shirt, but it does indicate that our growing workforce wants to have more of a connection," Fisher wrote.
Managers can do their part as well to foster an inclusive social environment at work. By leveling with workers not just as subordinates, but taking a real interest in their lives, managers can begin to foster the type of culture that values social bonding. Fisher offered several tips to help managers who aren't comfortable with becoming too personal with their employees, while also helping to ensure their millennial employees feel connected:
- Don't limit conversations to email or formal meetings. Take awalking meeting. Walking meetings are part of LinkedIn’s culture, and they are popular because people tend to relax during a walk, which allows for a more open and creative discussion. Plus, not having a phone or computer interrupt you every second allows you to be more focused on the person you are talking to, and ultimately more connected, Fisher said.
- Take an interest in their personal lives. While you may not want to give relationship advice, you should have an interest in your teammates as people. Take a few minutes during every one-on-one meeting to connect on a personal level. If your colleague always jets out with her yoga mat, ask her about it. Work is only a part of who people are. If you get to know people's other passions, it may give you a glimpse into what motivates them.
- Congratulate, share and like. A simple gesture on social media can do wonders for employee morale. Think how great it feels to get "a job well done" email from your boss, and then imagine having the same recognition shared with your network. It feels great to get acknowledged for your hard work, and by sharing it publicly, you also help to build your professional brand.
Additional reporting by Chad Brooks.