Working relationships: friendships in the workplace

Working relationships

In our first post in a series which focuses on relationships in the office, we looked at how a well-defined company culture can be used as a recruitment tool in attracting and hiring the right staff. A key theme throughout, was the positive effects that strong relationships can have on not only company culture, but on productivity and retention.

Through close proximity, organised team bonding activities, social events and communal areas, the forming of working relationships and even friendships is inevitable. It’s clear that these bonds are important, but where should the line be drawn between working relationships and workplace friendships? If one should be drawn at all.

The impact on productivity

Though they are not mutually exclusive, the difference between workplace friendships and working relationships is significant, as friendships indicate a personal bond where employees are in contact, or socialise outside of office hours. They confide in each other, and support each other. While a working relationship is exactly that – when two or more people work well as a team, and positively interact to reach a joint professional goal.

Unsurprisingly, 9 in 10 employers believe that the forming of strong working relationships improves productivity in their business. The difference it seems is when these flourish into friendships, as only half think that these are beneficial.

Despite promoting the importance of a strong positive atmosphere at work, 20% of employers believe that close friendships at work can actually isolate members of the team who don’t feel included, with 10% stating that close bonds can even become a distraction that limits productivity.

Our research canvassed over 100 employers and over 4,000 candidates, and we were told that because of these problems, 20% of recruiters believe that work friendships are either irrelevant or not important.

However, this is at odds with what candidates are telling us. 1 in 4 people say that they want better relationships with their colleagues and claim it motivate them to stay in a job.

Getting the balance right

It’s hugely important to be true to your company. Consider your company culture, your goals and decide from there. But realistically, friendships are going to be formed, and trying to limit this would be catastrophic for morale, meaning they should be encouraged where possible.

In a small start-up that may expect longer-hours and a passion for the company’s future, these friendships can be pivotal to success. While in a larger corporate organisation, with a stricter culture, it could be an unwelcome distraction.

What’s clear is that while nearly 60% of employers encourage socialising out of work, a balance needs to be struck, to ensure that workplace friendships improve the company culture, without allowing the office to boil over into a recreation centre.

Overall, the vast majority (70%) of employers are in agreement that friendships at work are a good thing. They are seen as good for morale as it creates a positive, friendly atmosphere, which naturally appeals to most people. This is echoed by employees, with 60% saying that they actually look forward to going to work because of these friendships.

And with 2 in 3 employers saying that these personal bonds make it easier to retain staff, ultimately, the more you can do build a close-knit team that care for each other, and enjoy each other’s company, the better.

Research courtesy of Totaljobs’ report, Married to 9 to 5: The World of Work Spouses

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