Do you have a best friend at work?
This question, according to Gallup, is the most controversial question the analytics company has ever asked in 30 years of workplace engagement research. Apparently, it gets a rise out of bosses who don’t believe friendships should have anything to do with a company’s bottom line.
The article “We All Need Work Wives: Here’s How Bosses Can Encourage Female Friendship” published in February 2020 by Entreprenuer.com, describes Gallup studies which show that having a best friend at work improves performance and engagement, especially for women.
For women, having a close friend at work can make or break their investment in a job. “Our research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job,” Gallup reports. Of those who participated in the research, “women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged (63%) compared with the women who say otherwise (29%).”
Gallup also found that women who have a best friend at work are less likely to be looking for other jobs, more likely to feel solidarity with their team, to rate their team and organization’s performance highly, to understand what’s expected of them and even to take risks that lead to innovation.
(Sidebar: We were intrigued by the work wives reference in the title, and learned it’s a reference to “the creative possibilities that emerge when women channel their emotional and professional energy toward one another in the workplace.” Want examples? There’s Tina and Amy, Oprah and Gayle, you and your BFF.)
For women (and men, of course), feeling seen by a close friend as we go about our days can be like standing on a powerful springboard. A best friend is someone we feel comfortable bouncing new ideas off of, and who propels us to take the next big leap.
So how do business leaders encourage these kinds of friendships? The article offers some specific examples to get employees excited and interested in joining together to:
- Promote a culture of open communication: Everyone is encouraged to volunteer their thoughts and contribute according to their skills.
- Volunteer as a team or host philanthropic events: If your team volunteers together for a particular cause, or hosts a benefit, everyone gets the helping high that comes with doing something kind for others.
- Encourage collaboration and cross team projects: Combining teams to fuse their expertise on a certain project is a great way to land on innovative ideas while allowing new people to meet.
- Create fun circumstances for people to meet: Set up channels for employees to mingle throughout the year with, for example, a random coffee pairings calendar. Anyone who wants to participate will be randomly matched with someone else in the office for a weekly (or monthly) coffee date.
We each have known, since our days in the schoolyard that having friends (and a best friend) does make the good times better and the challenging times easier to handle. The same holds true today in the places where we work.