Want to Improve Your Employee Engagement Scores? Find Ways to Foster Workplace Friendships

3 minutes • Dec 10, 2020Employee Engagement
Find Ways to Foster Workplace Friendships

Have you thought about workplace friendships as part of your employee engagement strategy? Research increasingly shows that making and having work pals increases happiness, engagement, and job satisfaction. In fact, people who report having a “best friend at work” are seven times more likely to experience high workplace engagement. They’re also more productive and contribute to increased retention rates.

And studies suggest that having at least six hours of social time every day increases well-being, decreases stress, and improves one’s chances of having a good day (And hey – even the chance of having a good day is compelling reason enough for me to get onboard with finding ways to help people make friends at work!).

So what follows from the above is pretty obvious: employees who feel connected to their team will be more collaborative and more “bought-in” to your company’s mission, vision and goals. And in a remote work world, this is more critical than ever. Take a read below for ways to encourage workplace friendships and keep your people connected.

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7 Hot Tips for Building Community at Work

1. Start a Peer-to-Peer Recognition Program

Find ways for your people to publicly recognize each other for great work. You don’t have to implement a full-scale program—even something simple like a shoutout channel in Slack, an email thread, or a readout of recognition at an All Hands can be successful. The point is really to encourage people to notice and recognize when someone goes above and beyond.

Start a Peer-to-Peer Recognition Program

Check out our how-to guide for launching a peer recognition program, and consider checking out our very own lightweight peer recognition feature.

2. Use an Employee Directory

The place to start fostering workplace friendships that go beyond departmental affiliations is by having a company-wide employee directory. When your people can browse each other’s profiles and see who shares similar interests, it’s easy for them to find their people and get connected.

company-wide employee directory

3. Host Skill-Shares, or Even “Cross-Train” Employees

Host skill-shares or lunch-and-learns—events where people share expert knowledge or teach coworkers one of their skills. In more technical circles, they call this cross-training: the process of teaching the entire team a skill or task that is outside of their usual responsibilities or department. Learning together is always a connection point and a way to make friends at work.

The topics can vary widely, from the technical to the usual to the esoteric: Coding Basics; How to Forage for Wild Mushrooms; Tips for Traveling to Croatia; How to Become an Excel Jedi; etc. Find opportunities for people to share their own knowledge and the friendships will come naturally.

4. Create a Culture of Transparency

Believe it or not, breaking down silos encourages friendship. When people feel protective of their knowledge, relationships, or information in a work setting, they’re less likely to have connections that go beyond the work at hand. But a transparent environment is one where work friendships can thrive. People aren’t on guard; they feel comfortable that they have the right context and no one is going behind someone else’s back.

To put it another way, as a manager, you can have an open door policy. That means being receptive to honest communication from your people, whether it’s feedback, the discussion of a problem, or another sensitive subject. Your people will feel safe and supported, which lowers competitiveness and improves connection.

5. Host Structured Hangs

Even better, invite some culture champions to organize structured hangouts via Zoom or Google Meet. Have some icebreakers or a list of topics for the meeting. Check out the suggestions below if you need some ideas:

Download Virtual Mixer Template

6. Celebrate Each Other’s Milestones

The strongest friendships in the workplace often transcend the office or Zoom breakout room. Help your people feel celebrated by toasting to everyone’s wins of course, but also to their milestones: work anniversaries, birthdays, and first days for new hires.

Celebrate Coworkers

This brings people closer together and makes individual team members feel more supported and seen in their lives outside of work.

7. Help Employees Put Names to Faces

Remote work and grainy Zoom videos can make it difficult for employees to get to know each other, creating unnecessary stress.

We’re biased, but trying a fun quiz with photos can help people privately learn coworkers’ faces and sidestep potentially awkward encounters.

putting a face to a name

You can make this quiz for free using Google Slides, then share it with the rest of the team. Or, you know, sign up for Pingboard and get people using our Who’s Who game on mobile.

Making Friends at Work is Easy and Essential

People are naturally geared toward meeting others, forming connections, and building friendships. Managers and supervisors can accelerate the process by creating an environment where there are plenty of chances to strengthen bonds.

Remote work doesn’t need to impede this. Whether you implement an employee directory, a peer-to-peer recognition program, or regular structured Zoom mixers, employees can continue to make and have friends at work, even while clocking in at a distance.

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