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Examining Gallup's Q10: The Importance of Workplace Friendships

Veronica Brundle - Jun 28 2021, 2:53:20 PM

The results of Gallup’s much-anticipated Employee Engagement Survey are in, so it’s time for leaders and managers across the world to pore over its actionable insights. Based on the responses of over 100,000 teams and over 2.7 million workers, Gallup’s survey provides valuable data that could help you to improve sales, productivity, employee retention, profitability, and more. 

Perhaps the most striking responses to this year’s survey came out of the tenth question: “Do you have a best friend at work?” While the issue of workplace friendships may seem a little trivial, Gallup’s data suggests that organizations populated by strongly bonded employees enjoy better business outcomes. 

Globally, only three out of every ten employees strongly agree that they have a good friend in their place of work. Companies who manage to shift that ratio to six in ten could see a 28% drop in health and safety problems, 10% higher profits, and a 5% increase in customer engagement levels. And that’s not all. Co-worker friendships are vital for reducing employee turnover, ensuring workers feel fulfilled in their roles, and much more. In this blog, we delve a little deeper into why you should focus on nurturing bonds between colleagues. 

How friendship affects different performance indicators

Virtually every measure of business success is affected by the strength of employee friendships. These include, but are not necessarily limited to employee retention rate, motivation, productivity, job satisfaction rates, and innovation.

According to a recent study, around 60% of employees report that having more friends at work would make them more likely to stay with their current employer. Without a solid support network anchoring them to a particular company, workers are much more open to finding fresh opportunities. In the long term, high employee turnover can be costly, frustrating, and reduce productivity.

Studies into friendship’s effect on productivity consistently find a positive correlation between the two. This link is partly attributable to the fact that workers are more comfortable seeking help from their friends than their superiors. Workplace friends represent a valuable repository of knowledge that can help employees hone their skills and, by extension, their productivity. Furthermore, positive relationships can help to boost a worker’s morale. It’s no secret that being in a good mood can help keep productivity levels high, even when carrying out mundane or repetitive tasks. 

From promotion opportunities to flexible working arrangements, many factors can affect a person’s sense of job satisfaction. While the relative significance of these factors differs from employee to employee, workplace friendships are almost universally valued. Research suggests that the most satisfied employees boast an average of 4.3 workplace friends, a relatively high number that reveals the role companies have to play in boosting sociability between colleagues. 

This number shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, many of us spend more time amongst our colleagues than our own friends or family members. Maintaining positive relationships with co-workers ensures that one’s everyday experiences remain rich and rewarding.

Workplace friendships serve a higher purpose than providing opportunities for gossip, venting, and small talk. While trivial chat certainly plays a vital role in maintaining a person’s wellbeing, strong workplace bonds also provide intellectual fulfillment and creative inspiration. Colleagues who can discuss new ideas freely are much better innovators than those who keep all of their thoughts bottled up. Conversation stimulates ingenuity, after all, and workers with friends who champion their ideas often feel more confident to make daring proposals.  

We’ve all heard about the importance of company culture, but what is it? Forget team days out and stale corporate mantras – healthy company culture is one in which colleagues relate to each other communicate freely. Organizations with rigid hierarchies and siloed teams often experience toxic company cultures in which colleagues are afraid or reluctant to speak to others. This lack of communication can cause serious issues surrounding accountability and may even inflict reputation damage on your brand. 

A survey of 3,000 Americans conducted by Olivet Nazarene University suggests that, while most employees claim to have friends at work, only 15% pursue these relationships outside the workplace. The strongest friendships endure beyond the immediate office environment, and they’re vital for maintaining a competitive business. That's ample incentive to provide plenty of opportunities for casual bonding in-office and virtually. 

Originally published at Jun 28 2021, 2:53:20 PM. Updated on Sep 27 2022.

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