The importance of having fun at work.

In her novel Anne of Avonlea, Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote, “I’m so thankful for friendship. It beautifies life so much.” Her statement would have been equally true had she written, “It beautifies work so much.”

Friends on the job

Friendship in the workplace is more beneficial than many of us realize. Not only does having someone to chat, commiserate, and laugh with lift our moods and make the time go by faster, but it can also improve productivity, creativity, engagement, and loyalty. In fact, the 2017 Gallup State of the American Workplace report found that office friendships raise work satisfaction by a whopping 25%. It also makes us seven times more likely to feel engaged.

Why everybody wins

The fact that having friends at work makes us happier isn’t surprising; we are social creatures after all. What is interesting, though, is how our happiness manifests in ways that make us better at our jobs. For example, we’re more likely to ask for help and advice from people we like and trust. Being friends with our colleagues breaks down the barriers that normally prevent us from reaching out, especially when we’re afraid of looking foolish. Not hesitating to ask questions (or, conversely, to be supportive and answer them) helps us save time, avoid costly mistakes, and improve our skills.

These effects are magnified when we make friends with coworkers in other departments. Learning about their roles and perspectives gives us a sense of the bigger picture. We’re better able to understand how our objectives fit into the objectives of the entire organization. This enables us to think more holistically, which ultimately bolsters the bottom line.

Making work fun

So how can you encourage your staff to develop friendships and have fun together? First, it’s important to understand that you can’t force it. Cramming everyone into a room and telling them to make friends is disingenuous and reeks of bad intentions. This is a matter of building culture, so it needs to happen organically.

Leaders can plant the seeds by demonstrating pro-social behavior, such as asking people how their weekend was, whether they watched the game last night, etc. They can also provide opportunities for staff to connect more informally, such as catered lunches, bowling nights, team fundraisers and so on. Even allowing pets in the workplace can help staff connect with one another. Employees are more likely to embrace the chance to bond with their colleagues if they see that it’s accepted and encouraged by more senior staff.

Be patient and considerate

As previously mentioned, don’t be surprised if it takes a while to get the ball rolling. Friendships are delicate and take time to strengthen. Moreover, not everyone is interested in making friends at work. Be considerate of the fact that some people prefer to keep their professional and personal lives separate, which is completely fine. What matters is that they still feel accepted, valued, and welcomed by their coworkers.

More ways to improve your organization’s culture

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