As the old adage goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. It stands to reason then that making friends at work is beneficial to not only an individuals career, but their life as a whole.
Friendships are important in day to day life, from talking through worries and problems, to sharing accomplishments and life events. Having strong friendships and connections can combat negative impacts of loneliness and isolation, with research showing that those with positive friendships have a lesser risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and that they generally live longer and healthier lives.
In the workplace friendships are also important, however research shows that loneliness for employees is on the rise. This workplace loneliness can result in reduced job performance and increased costs for the employer as well as having a negative impact on employee well-being. Friendships, as healthy connections can help to relieve stress, combat feelings of loneliness and help employees feel happier, healthier both in work and in their personal lives. Below are some helpful tips on how work friendships can be encouraged and nurtured in order to relieve feelings of tension, isolation or stress among employees
- Show appreciation: no matter what position you are in your organisation, it is important to let your colleagues or supervisres know that they have done a good job by noticing their hard work, and by showing your appreciation for this work.
- Encourage and organise social gatherings: think outside of the odd lunch, or work drinks – organising a big event that encourages teamwork and co-operation, or that gives back to the community through volunteering, can foster friendships and connections. Examples include company picnics and hikes, or helping a local charity for a few hours.
- Monitor employee inclusion and belonging: It’s important that everyone feels like they are valued and belong in the organisation. Inclusion programmes ensure that everyone feels involved. Check-in regularly to ensure programmes are well communicated and participated, through an anonymous survey, or by asking every member on a team for project status updates, feedback, thoughts, etc.
- Update and introduce policies: feelings of loneliness can be exacerbated by stress and overwork. It would therefore be helpful to ensure that the organisation promotes a culture of health and well-being, which encourages a work-life balance. This could involve reviewing current policies regarding annual leave, sick leave, and outside-of-hours work, as well as perhaps introducing new policies which encourage employees to look after their physical and mental health in the workplace, such as providing ergonomic assessments, or free or subsidised healthy foods.
Positive relationships have a profound and lasting impact on our health and happiness. Fostering a culture of inclusion and friendship will result in greater satisfaction, productivity and brand reputation now and in the future.
Author: Dr. Jennifer Fennel, Counselling Psychologist