The research has spoken — having friends at work is a key to happiness.
In fact, a Gallup’s State of the American Workplace poll found that friendship at work increases employee satisfaction by 50 percent and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged. LinkedIn’s Relationships@Work study found that almost half of professionals agree that that friendships at work play a role in their overall happiness and this finding was particularly strong for the millennial generation. When friends work together, they are more trusting and committed to one another’s success, they are more likely to share information, and they spend more time helping one another.
When we share this research with organizations, it is often met with skepticism. “I can’t just assign employees a best friend! How am I supposed to ensure employees have friends and work?”
Fair question. The answer? The most effective leaders provide employees with opportunities to get to know one another, build comradery, and develop trust. If done right, the holidays can be a great opportunity to set the foundation for relationships between employees (we’ve also seen holiday events go wrong, so thoughtfulness is key!).
While the standard holiday mixer is nice, most of the time people tend to spend time with the people they already know and like.
Here are a few ideas for the holidays that may help to build the foundation of friendship building:
Create Bonds Through Challenge and Competition
There is nothing like working together to achieve a common goal in the face of competition to build relationships. Use the holiday season as an opportunity to build camaraderie through community service activities or start a competition to see which team can bring in the most donations for the local food drive or charity.
Make it Fun
Team-up people who may not normally interact and ask the team to decorate a part of the office. We know of one organization that has each team build a creative miniature golf hole for the holiday party. If your team is virtual ask them to challenge their creativity by creating a holiday card that represents the department or organization.
Guess the Workspace
For local or virtual teams, ask each person to take a picture of their desk or workspace. Show the photo and discuss the clues in the picture. Have each person write down who they think submitted the picture.
Speed it up
Holiday get-togethers are a great time to talk with people that they may not normally interact with (leaders/executives included!). Leverage the idea of “speed dating” and pair people up for a series of five-minute conversations. Provide employees with conversations topics like favorite holiday tradition, biggest accomplishment for the year, best new year’s resolution, etc.
Incorporate Loved Ones
Meeting your co-workers’ significant others or children can help you get to know people on a whole new level. Linkedin has endorsed this idea by hosting, “Bring your Parents to work day.” At one holiday party, I attended, a co-worker’s pet pig stole the show and opened up many interesting conversations. If it’s not possible to bring in loved ones, pictures work great as conversation starters too.
Of course, fostering relationships is not a “one and done” event but an ongoing commitment that pays off over time, so keep relationship building opportunities alive throughout the year.