Why you need a best friend at work

Why you need a best friend at work
We all naturally crave close, trusting relationships -- whether it's at work or in life. Having a "best friend" at work isn't just about having a buddy to chat with during lunch breaks; it's a game-changer for the employee experience, impacting communication, commitment, and overall outcomes. In fact, recent data from Gallup highlight how crucial having a best friend at work has become, especially in the wake of the pandemic and the rise of remote and hybrid work setups.

The pandemic brought forth unprecedented challenges, especially for frontline workers and educators, leaving many employees grappling with traumatic experiences. During these tough times, having a best friend at work provided vital social and emotional support, helping individuals navigate through the storm.

Imagine a working parent who leaned on their coworker (who's also a parent) when the pandemic forced them to juggle homeschooling and job duties. Their work buddy offered unconditional support during the toughest moments, sending a clear message: "You're not alone."

For others thrust into remote or hybrid work setups, their best friend at work became a lifeline, keeping them informed, accountable, and connected to their team. They could ask their buddy "silly" questions about changes without worrying about feeling foolish.

And when workloads pile up, having a best friend at work gives you an extra push. You feel accountable to them, not wanting to let them down, which naturally motivates you to go above and beyond on projects.

On the flip side, employees without a best friend at work may feel even more isolated, especially while working from home. Without that collaboration and sense of responsibility to a work buddy, their performance might suffer.

Whether in the office or navigating the virtual realm, having a best friend at work is crucial for connection and support.

Recent Gallup findings underscore this connection between having a work best friend and key outcomes, particularly in remote settings. Having a best friend at work is strongly linked to business success, including profitability, safety, inventory control, and retention.

Employees with a best friend at work are more likely to engage customers, work efficiently, ensure workplace safety, innovate, and enjoy their time on the job. Since the pandemic hit, the relationship between having a best friend at work and these outcomes has only strengthened.

Work buddies aren't just about socializing or maintaining good relationships; they're about having someone who's there for you through thick and thin. They've got your back and genuinely care about your well-being. These authentic friendships foster a sense of ownership and effectiveness in employees, no matter where or when they work.

As workplaces continue to evolve amidst changes and uncertainties, having a best friend at work becomes even more critical. These friendships help employees stay informed, adapt to new technologies, and navigate shifts in processes.

But here's the challenge: how do leaders foster connections and friendships in a physically distant workforce? In the U.S., only a small fraction of employees report having a best friend at work.

Based on Gallup's experience, here are some strategies to promote work best friends, whether your team is in-person, remote, or hybrid:

  1. Lead with intentionality: Leaders should champion work best friends, setting the tone for connection and support. From the top brass to frontline managers, everyone should talk about the importance of work friendships and actively foster them.

  2. Create opportunities for connections: Assess your team structures and systems to ensure they support work friendships. Encourage managers to promote a team atmosphere that values trust and collaboration. Schedule social events and encourage casual interactions to help employees connect.

  3. Communicate consistently: Keep the lines of communication open, encouraging employees to support each other authentically. Leaders should lead by example, fostering a culture where friendly dialogue is the norm.

Building a culture of work best friends isn't just about boosting morale; it's about creating an environment where employees feel supported, valued, and connected. By investing in work friendships, organizations can drive engagement, collaboration, and ultimately, success.

So, here's to work best friends -- the secret sauce that keeps employees engaged, motivated, and committed, no matter what challenges come their way.