Last week we talked about the importance of building relationships with the staff you oversee, and now this week we’re talking about the importance of building relationships with your coworkers and peers at your workplace.
These relationships are often undervalued by leadership and even we can downplay their benefits ourselves, that is until we have a best friend at work and realize just how much of a game changer it can be to our work life. If you’re feeling weary, let’s jump into the “whys” first.
Improvement in bottom line
Having friends at work actually makes a difference in the company’s bottom line – YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT. Check out this excerpt from some Gallup research to put this into perspective. Gallup states, “…our employee engagement database shows that a mere two out of 10 U.S. employees strongly agree they have a best friend at work. Yet, by moving that ratio to six in 10, organizations could realize:
- 36% fewer safety incidents
- 7% more engaged customers
- 12% higher profit.”
Who isn’t looking for a 12% bump in their profits by doing something as simple as encouraging friendship in the workplace?
We talked quite a bit about engagement last week and this week is no different my friends! Again, my favorite researchers over at Gallup show the incredible effects of having a best friend at work on your teams’ performance.
Gallup shares, “For example, 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%).”
This awesome article on CNBC @Work shared, “A separate study, by Officevibe, found that 70 percent of employees say friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life, and 58 percent of men would refuse a higher-paying job if it meant not getting along with co-workers.”
Happy team, happy life? 🙂
Social connectedness is imperative to humans
Our DNA is wired for human connection even prior to conception. This doesn’t fade when we move out of our parents home, or when we have our own children, or at any age for that matter. That human connection makes all of the difference to our overall wellness, and we know our overall wellness makes a HUGE difference on our performance in the workplace.
“Did you know the mortality impact of loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day? Loneliness increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety. When we’re lonely we’re less engaged, less productive and less creative.” says Jeff Boss in an article for the World Economic Forum.
These two great articles from CNBC and Forbes really dig into the difference of the workplace today vs. previous generations and how that creates even more need for connection within the office. Many Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers had a clear separation of work and home life, but technology has changed that.
Most workplaces expect employees to be available via email or text anytime of the day or night, and even worse many workplaces shame those who try to disconnect outside of work hours. When work and home lives cannot be separated, the need for friendships and connection at work becomes absolutely imperative.
Change doesn’t happen just from the top-down
We know this anecdotally, but if you’re a research nerd like me this Harvard Business Review article shows an example of this bottom-up change flawlessly. This is a reminder that as a group of peers, we have the power to positively influence our work culture from the bottom up. We have “structural power” as shown by the medical assistants in this HBR article.
Oftentimes our staff, or ourselves with our peers, can make the biggest difference in the performance of our companies because we are the ones day-to-day working with our consumers. Don’t underestimate the trust and friendship that is needed to make this happen organically — you can’t force friendship, but you can foster it.
Come on, of course there are some fabulous selfish benefits here – showing your own initiative! Whether you’re the leader fostering and encouraging this engagement within the teams you oversee AND/OR you’re the coworker rallying your colleagues to build these relationships, you will be showing your higher-ups that you don’t wait around to be told what to do.
Instead, you see opportunities and you go after them. You make things happen. You’re the “go-to” person in the office. Trust me, that PAYS OFF. And while we’re at it, there are many ways to get noticed for your initiative at work, just check out this awesome article from Muse.
Alright, you should be well and convinced that these friendships with your peers (and amongst the peers in the teams you oversee) are CRUCIAL to maximizing success in your office. So let’s jump into the simple “hows” to making this happen!
Ask folks out individually for coffee
Okay, when you’re new to a team or an office I cannot suggest enough that you get together individually with all of the folks on your team. Ask your teammates and peers (even those from other departments) out to a coffee meeting, a walking meeting, or lunch sometime. Make it a point to do this within the first 90 days with your new team, but if you’re already past that just get to it in the next 90 days!
Make it casual and just be ready to ask questions! Ask them about their family, their hobbies, where they’re from, what they studied, where they like to travel, what makes them happy, etc. You don’t want to spend the time talking about work specifically – you want to get to know the human outside of their role at the company. You have PLENTY of time in the office to learn about this person as a professional, but that time will come much easier when you have a personal connection.
Initiate a weekly or monthly standing meeting
In almost every workplace I’ve been in, my higher ups wanted to see directors and managers take initiative to set up their own workgroup amongst themselves. They didn’t want to lead it or prescribe how it was set up, but wanted to see synergy and collaboration happening without their instruction. (Just a little PS, I think leaders should be involved and model this behavior but for the point’s sake I’ll move on today).
So be that person! Be the one that asks the other managers, the other directors, or whoever your peers are at the company to get together on a regular basis. Whether that means once per week because you have such a fast-moving culture or once per month because that’s sufficient is up to you all, but just make it happen!
Yes, there will be people that look at you and think, “who does she think she is?” but they will be rare in comparison to those that will look forward to the opportunity to collaborate and grow as friends and a team. Bonus tip: to avoid this issue ask the group to buy in, don’t just force it. Ask everyone to rotate the facilitation of the meetings, etc.
Start a lunch group
Let me just start this off with saying I totally get that introverts are screaming at me for this one right now. And I HEAR you and agree with you… most of the time. I LOVE my lunch time to be my time to just be silent and alone for an hour. But, what I’m asking you today is not to give that up, but rather just give that up once a month or once a week. NOT every day!
After you’ve started a foundation of a relationship with folks because you met with them individually for coffee when you first started, then put out the idea to do a monthly or weekly lunch date for anyone who wants to join. You all could go out and try a new restaurant each time, or you could do a potluck at the office, or you could even just pick an awesome new outdoor spot when the weather is nice and everyone can brown bag it. Again, try to steer conversation to personal talk and keep the work talk to a minimum (although we all need to vent sometimes).
Start a “fun” committee
This is one of my FAVORITES. Okay, there are many ways to do this but a key point here is that it helps to have a little budget to pull from for this committee. If your company already has a budget for team building or something of the sort, you just have to convince your leadership to let you all plan how to utilize that budget through your employee-led group.
If you don’t have a budget yet, you can definitely make a case to get a little bit of cash put aside each year for employee appreciation/team-building from your employee-led group.
And lastly, if you just know your company isn’t going to fork over the cash you can get creative. Your employee-led “fun committee” can hold a couple of fundraisers throughout the year to build a little fund or can even get together with with your accounting folks to have an optional payroll deduction for employees to give $1-$5 per paycheck into the “fun committee” fund. You’d be surprised how fast that money can build up.
I encourage this committee to be made up of volunteers from the company that enjoy party planning and care about building relationships in the workplace. I encourage you as a leader to ensure there is representation from all departments and levels of leadership in the company. And of course work in a timeline for proposing “fun committee” events and budgets to company leadership for approval before anything is finalized.
I have had SO much fun with my teams doing things like these. We’ve hired transportation for a day of local wine-tasting, have done employee appreciation galas, gone off-campus and hired folks to help us facilitate team-building activities, have done a local baseball game and happy hour, and hosted employee BBQ’s where families and children were all invited to join.
Start a walking group
For all of us traditional “desk” workers, y’all feel my pain on looking at your Fitbit at the end of the day and seeing you barely have a couple thousand steps right? You’re more exhausted than if you would’ve been active and you start feeling the effects of your days spent at the computer screen, amirite??
Well this is one of the “two birds, one stone” solutions. Ask your teammates to start a walking group with you where you spend your morning and afternoon breaks getting your steps in. The activity will give you a little burst of energy before you get back to your desk, and you can have a little catch up session with your work besties.
At one of my workplaces we actually formed teams and competed against each other each month to see which team could get the most steps! The winning team got taken out for lunch. 🙂 Brings a little friendly competition and teamwork to the office.
So, what now?
These are a lot of great options to get you going in the right direction, but don’t get overwhelmed that you have to do everything at once. Share with us in the comments what the one thing is you’re going to try this month to grow your relationships with your peers in your workplace. And share any other awesome ideas you have!