Do You Need a Work-Best-Friend?
Updated: May 29
Work Best Friends are part of the social landscape in an organisation
"Best" is not necessary.
Research shows that close relationships can not only benefit the individuals but the business as well
Organisations should focus on creating an environment for friendships to form
Looking around the office you may have noticed a number of cliques that exist, groups of individuals that gather together or share an almost membership-like status. Just like in high school, these informal groups play a big role in the social ecosystem at work. In other cases you may notice a more specific type of social structure. One where a pair of colleagues have a closer relationship than they do with others. Whether it's the inside joke you stumble upon when entering a call a few minutes late, or the personal references made in the team chat, or perhaps it's how they tend to rely on one another more than the others. Enter the Work Best Friend. i.e. WBF
The Work Best Friend (WBF)
So what is a Work Best Friend and why does it exist? As annoying as it might seem to some observers, the work best friend is a necessary part of the social ecosystem and can have mutual benefits for both participants in career progression as well as personal wellbeing.
Best friends at work provide essential social and emotional support
Having a best friend at work now ties more strongly to key business outcomes
These strategic alliances can open doors for career growth
A WBF can make work feel like a happier place to be.
People are willing to go further for those they have a real connection with.
In fact, recent Gallup data show that having a best friend at work has become more important since the start of the pandemic.
Behaviour Economics celebrity, Dan Arielly relates in a Wall Street Journal article how even having one "close" friend can make a big impact on negative effects such as loneliness and helping one navigate the political landscape. Harvard Business Review also points to a similar outcome where close friendships at work are strongly linked to business objectives, including improvements in profitability, safety, inventory control, and employee retention
It's ok to NOT have a work best friend
However, caution should be given to avoid misinterpreting having an ally to a work best friend. There is a lot of research to the benefits of having these types of relationships but organisations should not run with that headline and try to get everyone at work to become best friends. Trying to coerce people unnaturally into finding a best friend at work may have good intentions, but the outcome could very easily result in the very opposite and cause distrust between people and with the organisation. Friendship after all, is a very personal domain.
What can you, the leader or organisation, do?
According to Culture Amp, The Focus should be on building a workplace where people feel comfortable to connect and safe to engage with others. We agree with this as it allows for a nurturing environment in which connections can grow in a more organic way. As an organisation that is all about trying to build stronger connection between employees in organic ways, fikaTime is always trying to understand how to facilitate this.
Our tips for encouraging better relationships at work:
- Create opportunities for people to connect with others
- Avoid trying to explain why people need friends at work
- Let people choose how and when to make time for such things but make sure they are aware it's okay to connect with others.
- encourage connection over "friendship"
-Lead by example. People need to feel safe enough to try connecting with others.
- Don't force it
Various studies are helping us understand how we form stronger relationships and more evidence is pointing to factors such as proximity and regularity. These are shown to have a stronger impact on how we form friends than things such as shared interests. So there is no need to try and force people to make friends at work but with regular interactions and encouragement to engage, over time these interactions help build a foundation for better relationships...and perhaps even friends.