Everyone has a basic need for friendship and fulfilling relationships, but businesses don’t often look at the workplace as a place to meet friends. Many business owners are just worried about getting the job done, and don’t see much benefit in encouraging workplace friendships or promoting kindness. But could kindness and healthy friendships actually be the key to a more productive and successful business?
With remote workplaces, we’re more disconnected than ever before. But even pre-pandemic, our tendency to separate our work life from our outside life often had us overlooking our coworkers as friends. With less personal interactions than ever before, many of us are missing the warmth of kindness that came from even the simplest things like someone greeting you with a smile and “good morning.”
[Note: if you work with me and walk into the office without greeting people, I’m going to ask you to. Because (1) it’s rude not to, and (2) not greeting people when you walk into a room screams, “I don’t care about you or any of this”.]
Encouraging an environment of friendship and kindness doesn’t just meet our human needs, it’s also good business. Here’s why:
1. Innovative Environment
A kind environment is a safe environment for sharing, vulnerability, and growth.
When you know you won’t be judged or mistreated for trying new things, you’re more likely to take risks and innovate. How can you reach new levels of success if you keep trying the same thing? You can break new ground when you know you’re supported.
When our ideas fall on kind ears, we’re more likely to ask questions, share ideas, and be productive.
Have you ever worked for a mean boss? It’s hard to communicate and get work done when you’re busy tiptoeing around a land mine. When our ideas fall on kind ears, we’re more likely to ask questions, share ideas, and be productive. Approachable bosses gain valuable insights and may learn something they never would have heard before if they weren’t welcoming.
3. Prevent Burnout
Imagine walking into work and no one knew your name, even though you’d been working there for years. It would feel terrible. Being recognized at work helps prevent burnout and reduce employee absenteeism. Sometimes even the most basic kindness can make a huge impact on employee well-being.
Compliments are social glue, helping us form more meaningful and positive relationships. If you want to boost your employee’s self-esteem and help them feel happier coming to work, sharing a compliment is a good start. Words of recognition are powerful motivators. Praise is a reflection of how others view us and influences how we view ourselves. Giving compliments can actually make you even happier than receiving them. The benefits work both ways so be generous with your praise.
…employees are twice as likely to be engaged if they have a best friend at work.
In a survey of 200 professionals from seven companies, researchers learned employees are twice as likely to be engaged if they have a best friend at work. However, another study by Virgin Pulse revealed one in 10 people have no friends at work. That’s pretty alarming! Those with no or few friends said they felt disengaged and lonely. They also shared they would be more likely to stay at the company longer if they had more friends.
If you want results, you need good collaboration. “Teamwork makes the dream work” is more than a motivational poster in the break room. Getting a project done is much easier when everyone is working together and getting along.
7. More Creativity
The desire to help others and work with people you get along with is a solid source of intrinsic motivation. Sure, you can motivate people with money. But extrinsic motivation (like money) works well only for repetitive tasks. What about creative or more sophisticated, technical work? To excel at these, you need intrinsic motivation. When you’re motivated beyond a paycheck, you’ll find yourself more inspired, creative, and content at work.
Friendships at work boost employee performance.
Aren’t friendships just a distraction? We’re here to work. Actually, research shows the opposite effect. Friendships at work boost employee performance. In a study analyzing over 3,500 businesses, researchers found acts of helping, praise, and courtesy resulted in more efficiency and productivity.
9. Lower Turnover
A positive work environment also results in lower turnover rates. A study of 168 insurance company employees found that coworkers who become friends are happier, perform better at work, and are more likely to stay at the company. The majority of participants stated they would refuse a higher-paying job if it meant they would not get along with their coworkers.
When we feel more personally connected to our peers, we’re more likely to push through at work rather than move on to something new.
10. Improve Health
Can kindness impact our health? While studying the impact of coworkers on health, researchers at Tel Aviv University tracked 820 adults over the course of 20 years. They kept track of the participants’ health and asked questions about their boss, coworker relationships, and their work environment. They discovered the single most important factor impacting their health was the support of their coworkers – not their boss’ attitude or even the work environment.
The strong sense of bonding and mutual trust found in work friendships may be the single most important factor for a happy working life. Building personal relationships at work may take time but it’s worth the effort. Share a smile or compliment, set aside some time to bond, or schedule a lunch date.
Small acts of kindness can go a long way to improving your overall happiness and work satisfaction.
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