Several studies have shown that having close friendships at work s is good for your personal health, career satisfaction, and productivity. To the employee, it leads to greater enjoyment, fulfillment, achievement, and overall health. To the employer it means higher employee satisfaction, higher quality of work being produced, less money spent on employee sick days, and less employee turnover.
In this post, we’ll talk about how friendships at work impact our health, as well as some ideas to naturally foster friendships in your workplace.
The Impact of Work Friendships on Health and Happiness
The chemical impact of socialization in humans has an effect on our overall health, particularly stress reduction. Several research studies have shown just how our social wellbeing at work impacts our overall sense of well-being and overall health by reducing stress-related illness such as anxiety, depression, heart disease risk, and more.
As social creatures, generally any type of social interaction has a momentary, if not long-term, positive effect on our health. Psychologist Susan Pinker says:
“…simply […] shaking hands, giving somebody a high-five is enough to release oxytocin, which increases your level of trust, and it lowers your cortisol levels, so it lowers your stress.”-Susan Pinker
Increased trust and lowered stress has a direct effect on work performance, job satisfaction, and overall health.
How Work Life Affects Overall Well-Being
In their book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements Tom Rath and Jim Hartner at Gallup share extensive research that outlines five areas that contribute to one’s overall sense of well-being. These five areas consist of Career Well-Being, Social Well-Being, Financial Well-Being, Physical Well-Being, and Community Well-Being. Not only do you spend the majority of your week at work, but jobs are also directly responsible for two areas of well-being, including Career Well-Being and Financial Well-Being, and indirectly responsible for Social Well-Being due to the sheer amount of time spent at work. For that reason, it’s no wonder that our work lives have such a large impact on our overall health.
Those with a “best friend” at work are said to be
7 times more engaged in their job
According to research from Gallup, those who claim having a “best friend” at work are reported as being seven times more engaged in their job. Even without a very close friend, the social interactions you have with coworkers contribute to that overall six-hour threshold and trigger the chemical responses that reduce cortisol production (AKA stress) and produce dopamine (a natural pain-reliever).
Even three hours of social time a day
can reduce the chances of “having a bad day” by 10%.
According to Tom and Jim, as little as three hours of social time a day can reduce the chances of “having a bad day” by 10%. Their data states that six hours is the minimum amount of social time needed to feel positive social well-being for a single day. While six hours a day of socialization sounds daunting, note that “socialization” is inclusive of many different types of interactions, from your time at home, to work meetings, to chatting with the coffee shop baristas, to instant message conversations with coworkers.
How to Naturally Foster Socialization, Collaboration, and Friendship in the Workplace
Just like social relationships outside of work, friendship in the office can’t be forced. However, there are some things you can do to help facilitate easier communication that helps build friendships. Here are some ideas for increasing positive social interactions and friendships in daily work life, or for employers, some ideas to help your workforce stay healthy and happy through positive socialization.
1. Use Instant Messenger Tools
Instant messaging or chat tools not only help encourage team and project collaboration, but allows for casual conversation as well. It’s a great way to ask a quick question about a project or ask your coworker about their recent vacation.
2. Make sure you have a breakroom with adequate space for employees to each lunch and take a break
Creating a space for breaks and lunchtime socialization is one of the foundational ways to foster work relationships. The breakroom should physically accommodate several employees at a time and have adequate furniture for sitting, eating, and taking a break. It is also recommended to provide at least basic amenities like filtered water and coffee.
3. Host Happy Hours and Team Lunches
Happy hours and team lunches, whether in your office or down the street, are a great way to let people get to know each other better.
4. Host Offsite Events
Offsite team building events, such as bowling nights, wine and painting nights, and so on, are a great way to foster work friendships. Since not everyone can attend offsite events, be sure to balance these with onsite events to make sure everyone has an opportunity to mix and mingle.
5. Office Games and Activities
From the ever-popular office game room to spontaneous games of charades or pictionary, casual office activities are a great way to get to know your coworkers a little bit better, or help create a social environment .
6. Get-to-Know Questions on Fridays
One easy office activity that is probably the least distracting from daily work is to prompt a non-work-related question via email or an instant messenger app to your team, departement, or company-wide. Using whatever app or software you can use to send instant messages, implement “Get-to-Know Friday Questions” where you create a new question every Friday, such as “If you could max out your credit card at any store, what would it be?” This is a fun and less-distracting way to get to know team members better.