Should HR encourage office friendships?

Far from being a distraction, having pals at work makes employees more productive and engaged

Should HR encourage office friendships?
ried your employees are taking too many coffee breaks together, or that they’re confusing work time with their joint weekend plans?

Those friendships might actually be a positive for your organization.

In fact, an Accountemps survey reveals only six percent of CFOs believe office friendships dent productivity, and 36 percent believe it has a positive impact.

A separate survey from Robert Half, Accountemps’ parent company, found professionals who feel they have good friends at the office are 1.6 times more likely to be happy at work than those who don’t.

“Having friends at work has a positive impact on productivity as well as retention,” Robert Half’s Avalee Prehogan told HRD.

“We spend a lot of time at work – that’s the reality – just as much as, if not more than, at home, so it’s important to come to work and feel like you have a companion, someone that you can talk to, somebody that, if you’re having an issue, you can bend their ear. It does provide a stronger, more motivated, productive environment.”

There are several ways HR can help foster that culture, including a mentoring or buddy program for new employees, or arranging company social activities.

“Very often, I’ve seen companies do fundraising or do events outside as a group, and those tend to be very bonding and fun. That helps foster relationships, because of course it helps people with like interests do good in their community. Also doing outside team-building activities – those are great ways for people to bond together and build friendships, too.”

Prehogan adds that if HR is concerned those friendships are turning into cliques that create toxicity at work, a manager should talk to those workers one-on-one for a chat about what’s going on.

“Communication is the key, of course, to any positive work environment – sitting down with the employees, understanding what’s important to them, what makes them feel positive at work, so you can avoid any of this clique-ish negativity in the office.”

Related stories:
How to discipline a friend
Why employees need a best friend at work

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