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Employee Friendships: The Benefits and Disadvantages

Business team reporting to boss having meeting in office
Whether you’re based in the offices of a multi-national corporation or are the head of a small team in London’s start-up business centre, Shoreditch, workplaces are a lot more sociable than they used to be.

Here, we explore the benefits and disadvantages of encouraging employees to socialise at work and in their own time.

Building a Better Workplace Ethos

Encouraging friendships between employees and colleagues seems like a win-win situation for everybody involved. Team-building and collaborative working are factors that most businesses have placed an increasing focus on over the last few decades, and it seems like common sense that a team who genuinely enjoy each other’s company will work together in a smooth manner.

Plus, there’s legitimate evidence to suggest that work friendships are positively reflected in the performance of your business. In 2017, Gallup’s study of the State of the American Workplace found that workplace friendships resulted in an overall job satisfaction boost of at least 25 per cent, in some cases even up to 50%.

Giving your employees the space to socialise and relax is also a good way to tackle the problems of workplace stress and burnout – an area of staff wellbeing that is only just beginning to be given adequate attention.

You may decide to organise your own work socials, either as one-off events or as a regular series, or you may find that it’s been taken care of for you – with more businesses opting for coworking and shared office space over their very own premises, these new types of working space are offering perks and facilities specifically designed to create a more sociable atmosphere. 

Manchester’s Old Granada Studios provides its community of freelancers and start-ups with free beer and pizza on Fridays, while Proper Office, a serviced office space in Shoreditch, hosts regular events on its private roof garden. While there’s often a business element to these perks, with a certain level of networking expected, they’re also a perfect opportunity to unwind and enjoy each other’s company.

Striking the Right Balance

Encouraging employee friendships has its undeniable advantages, but it is important to strike the right balance. At the end of the day, all of your company’s work needs to be completed, and there can be such a thing as encouraging too laid-back an environment.

Without placing unreasonable restrictions or expectations on your employees, you should nonetheless be emphasising that socials and other team activities are to be encouraged as long as all of the company’s work is being completed on time, and to the best possible standard.

After all, some employers remain sceptical of the benefits that come from actively encouraging closer social ties between their staff members. One of the best ways to convince them otherwise may well be to prove that work-organised socials and out-of-hours social events can coexist seamlessly with a well-oiled company machine.

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