The Positive Business Impact of Having a Best Friend at Work

June 23, 201610:43 am
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Making a new best friend tends to happen naturally when you are young, however as you get older the process can become considerably more difficult. With social time outside work constrained, where do adults turn to find a new best friend? For many, it’s within the walls of their office — a choice that pays unexpected dividends for the companies that serve as the matchmakers for these unconventional friendships.

Recently, O.C. Tanner conducted its 2015 Health and Well-Being Study, surveying more than 2,300 working professionals from countries around the world (United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany) to explore employee well-being and its impact on productivity and a company’s bottom line.

After magnifying a section of that global research, it became apparent that having a best friend at work has a significant impact on an employee’s well-being, and therefore their overall work performance. As the research shows, having a good friend at work makes a tremendous difference in employee satisfaction, loyalty and productivity.

Employees of all ages and tenure feel they are recognized more frequently, feel more appreciated and valued, and are generally more satisfied with their life inside and outside of work, than those without a close ally in the trenches.

In particular, millennials are the most reliant on these close work relationships. In fact, if you’re a married, millennial executive, then chances are that you have a best friend at work.

Executives are actually the group with the highest percentage of employees who have a best friend at work, illustrating the fact that there are additional benefits to moving up the ranks beyond just higher pay. And if you think that employees who are single would be the most likely to seek out a close buddy, you’d be mistaken.

Surprisingly, those in long-term relationships seem to have the most luck at turning water cooler chit-chat into a meaningful friendship. The study further sheds light on employees’ friendly relationships at work, how those relationships impact well-being, and then in turn how they impact workplace productivity and engagement.

Key findings according to the study are:

  • Millennials top other generations when it comes to having a best friend at work – and the likelihood of having this type of connection goes down as age increases:
    • Millennials: 50 percent
    • Generation X: 45 percent
    • Baby Boomer: 42 percent
  • Employees who are married or in a domestic partnership are the most likely to have a best friend at work:
    • Domestic partnership:  53 percent
    • Married, living with spouse:  46 percent
    • Single, never married:  44 percent
    • Divorced:  42 percent
    • Widowed:  35 percent
    • Separated:  29 percent
  • Executive is the job title with the highest percentage of employees who have a best friend at work – the percentage goes down as the title status decreases:
    • Executive:  78 percent
    • Vice president:  71 percent
    • Director:  55 percent
    • Manager:  45 percent
    • Individual contributor/none of the above:  43 percent

Having a friend is good for business

  • 72 percent of employees who have a best friend at work are satisfied with their jobs, compared to only 54 percent of those who don’t have a best friend at work
    • 76 percent of employees who have a best friend at work say they’re able to see the positive impact their work has, compared to 63 percent of those who don’t have a best friend at work
    • 71 percent of employees who have a best friend at work feel a sense of belonging at the company where they currently work, compared to 51 percent of those who don’t have a best friend at work
    • 81 percent of employees who have a best friend at work are satisfied with their life overall, compared to 73 percent of those who don’t have a best friend at work
    • 75 percent of employees who have a best friend at work say they feel they’re able to “take anything on,” compared to 58 percent of those who don’t have a best friend at work
  • Employees who have a best friend at work are recognized more frequently for their contributions and feel more appreciated than those who don’t have a best friend, most likely because they are more involved and engaged than those without a best friend
    • Of those employees who receive recognition “often” or “always,” 56 percent have a best friend at work, compared to 24 percent of those who don’t
    • Of those employees who have felt appreciated in the last month,  49 percent have a best friend at work, compared to 31 percent of those who don’t

Employees crave emotional support

  • Within the past month, 86 percent of employees have received sympathetic understanding and concern about personal matters from co-workers
    • 1 in 3 “often” or “always” do
    • Females receive it more often
      • 37 percent of women “often” or “always” do vs. 28 percent of men
      • 37 percent of men “rarely” or “never” do vs. 24 percent of women
    • Similar to the “employees who have a best friend at work” percentage pattern, 18–24 year olds receive sympathetic understanding and concern about personal matters from co-workers “often” or “always” the most, and the percentage goes down as age increases:
      • 18–24: 42 percent
      • 25–34: 36 percent
      • 35–44: 30 percent
      • 45–54: 31 percent
      • 55+: 26 percent
    • Those married or in domestic partnerships are the most likely to receive sympathetic understanding and concern about personal matters from co-workers (percentage = receive it “often” or “always”):
      • Domestic partnership: 35 percent
      • Married, living with spouse: 34 percent
      • Separated: 32 percent
      • Single, never married: 30 percent
      • Divorced: 28 percent
      • Widowed: 27 percent
  • Millennials like to talk about work outside of work. Within the past month, millennials are the generation that has the highest percentage of employees who have received helpful information or advice about their work from people outside their place of work (e.g., spouse, children, friends who do not work with you, etc.), and the percentages decrease as age goes up:
      • Millennials “often or “always”: 39 percent
      • Generation X “often” or “always”: 29 percent
      • Baby Boomer “often” or “always”: 28 percent

In Conclusion

As employee well-being increases, its positive effects resonate throughout the organization and teams become more productive, more collaborative and more innovative. As organizations better understand employee well-being, they will be better equipped to implement programs that successfully impact it, and thus impact the company’s success and ROI.

Part of this includes fostering a culture that promotes healthy, friendly relationships and a supportive environment – a necessary foundation for a successful workforce.

For companies, the takeaway is clear: Invest in your teams, recognize their contributions and ignite innovation by providing team-building activities, outings, inter-departmental competitions, and/or team meals throughout your organization. Encourage your employees to form close friendships, and you’ll set off the chain reaction that leads to great work.

Contributor credit: octanner.com

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