Of course! But friends might not be the right word.
Back when our grandparents were marching into work every morning in their dark suits and white shirts there wasn’t a care in the world about having friends at the office. Sure they shared a martini (okay two) at lunch with colleagues and may have bonded over a boondoggle of a sales trip here and there but they truly came to the office for one reason — make the money that provides for their family and then head home at 5 to enjoy them.
Our parents weren’t exactly the same, but they still kept their heads down and when they finished their work, they went and found some more. The work ethic is admirable and still unquestionably valued by employers but the social isolationism does not lead to optimal productivity in today’s office.
So back to the original question through the lens of today’s workplace — friends are nice but it’s relationships that companies want to get right and carry the most importance. When workers have friendly, even casual relationships with their peers more work will get done, not less. A past HBR article found that employees with friends at work find their jobs more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile and satisfying. If we stop short of friends and go with “friendly relationship” with co-workers and you’ll find the same type of feedback.
You’ll find your people more productive when they are enjoying each other’s company because they’re communicating. And they’ll be communicating truth to each other rather than holding back or talking around sensitive issues. You’ll find your employees spending more time in the office when they have relationships and can share not only work problems with their co-workers but also what’s going on in their life. Lastly you’ll find the collaboration and teamwork increasing as well. People are competitive and want to get ahead but they’ll also take an active interest in their friends and will go out of their way to make sure they don’t look bad. All of this results in only good things for you and your business.
As a leader pursuing your goals you have an obligation to do everything possible to help foster relationships between your employees. At Buoy we’ve found the best way to do this is by promoting the situations and experiences which allow them to relax and get to know one another. Get creative and setup a trivia night, an improv class or a field trip out of the office. Anything to get your employees laughing and talking to each other away from a work project with consistency will do wonders for your business.
Have a great week!