You probably have a best friend (or several) in your personal life, but what about at work? Think about it: when you’re young, you made friends where you spent most of your time: at school or in other activities like sports or clubs. So it makes sense that work would be the place you’d make friends as an adult, since you spend as much as a third (or more) of your waking hours at work every week.
Why having a best friend at work is important
As noted by Gallup, “it's only natural that we want to build connections with our team members. We want work to feel worthwhile and having trusted confidants and supporters helps foster that feeling. We go to our work friends when we need to celebrate and commiserate about our personal and professional lives.” Having someone you can trust, confide in, laugh with, and eat lunch with makes those 40ish hours more enjoyable – which in turn leads to lower stress and increased happiness.
And while having friends at work to lean on and have fun with can provide both professional and personal benefits, the opposite is also true. Not having friends at work can be lonely. “In the absence of that outlet, work can seem lonely and isolating,” the Gallup article states, “It lacks attachments. We may like what we do, we may get to use our talents and strengths every day, but we're probably not feeling fully energized or motivated to put our whole selves into our roles.”
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Does making friends seem too intimidating? Here are some tips!
1. Join an employee interest group
Many companies have cultural-focused groups, softball teams, book clubs, and more. Find one that fits your interests and join it! And if your organization doesn’t have one, why not start one?
2. Be friendly
Introverts reading this: I don’t mean you have to go out of your way to strike up a conversation with every person you meet in the break room or new team member that joins the all-company video call. Just a smile or simple greeting can go a long way in breaking the ice. Before long, those hellos can turn into “how was your weekend?” or “want to grab lunch?”, and having someone to sit next to in a meeting.
3. Show your authentic self
Showcase your personality and interests wherever you can. Whether that’s by decorating your desk with pictures of your dog or wearing fun t-shirts of bands or shows you like on a Zoom call, people who share those interests are likely to take notice and strike up a conversation about it!
Building connections in a remote workplace
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more people work from home than ever before. But that doesn’t change the importance of workplace friendships. In fact, research by Gallup found having a best friend at work is more important since the start of the pandemic.
However, it can be more difficult to form these relationships in a remote setting. If you’re working at home by yourself and don’t see – or even communicate with – anyone else that you work with during the day, it can feel lonely and isolating. Loneliness can lead to depression and decreased cognitive performance, which can negatively impact performance at work. A report from Cigna also revealed that lonely workers think about quitting twice as often as those who aren’t lonely.
And while every company is different, at Sift, we’ve put an emphasis on communication and building an open, accepting culture, which has helped us form bonds with one another, even though we rarely see each other in the “real world.” We communicate throughout the day via Slack and get a lot of face time through weekly team check-ins, one-on-ones with our leader, and monthly virtual team activities like trivia games and lunch-and-learns.
So while I started at Sift remotely and have only met my co-workers in person a handful of times, I’ve still been able to make a couple of best friends. When I’m having a tough day, I know I can rely on them to help me through the problem, offer words of encouragement, or just send me a funny meme or TikTok to make me laugh. And when something great happens, we cheer each other on.
How leaders can improve workplace connection
Having a best friend at work doesn’t just benefit individual employees’ well-being – it can benefit the organization, as well. It’s been shown that employees with a best friend at work are more engaged, perform better, and have a better overall employee experience. Data from Gallup also showed that workers who reported having a best friend at work are more satisfied with their place of work, are more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work, and are significantly less likely to leave the organization than those who do not have a best friend at work.
So how can leaders create an environment that encourages friendship? Whether your workplace is fully remote, in-office, or somewhere in between, there are things you can do to help your people connect.
Create a culture of open communication
As noted by Gallup, “Inviting everyone into the conversation creates a psychological safety net and cultivates feelings of trust and belongingness that inherently lend themselves to connection and friendship.”
Sift's leadership team does a great job with this through an "Ask Me Anything" portion of our weekly all-team meeting, as well as keeping everyone informed of important business updates.
Provide plenty of opportunities to connect
Schedule opportunities for your employees to bond and get to know each other, such as team-building activities, casual team lunches, etc. If your workplace is remote or hybrid, these can be virtual! We have a lot of really fun, virtual team activities here at Sift.
Having an easy place for the people in your organization to find and connect with one another can help, too. Sift Profiles allow people to share their hobbies, interests, and backgrounds, making it easy to connect with like-minded individuals. Maybe that’s why nearly half of Sift users we surveyed agreed that Sift has helped them form working relationships!
Enable your employees to feel comfortable bringing their “whole selves” to work
This can be in the form of an accepting and inclusive culture or by allowing them opportunities to express themselves. Beyond sharing hobbies and interests, individuals can also list their pronouns and record the pronunciation of their names on their Sift Profiles. In fact, 86% of Sift users in a recent survey stated they have updated their Profiles to more accurately reflect who they are.
How a Modern People Directory can Bring About a More Productive, Connected, and Transparent Organization
A company, like the human brain, requires effective communication between all its individual parts to reach its full potential. This eBook covers the findings from a survey of more than 1,000 Sift users and reveals how a modern people directory can help organizations improve collaboration & work smarter.