employee engagement

Why Work Friends Matter + 12 Tips to Foster Work Friendships

Discover practical tips for making friends at work and learn how mentorship, facilitated by platforms like Together, can enrich workplace relationships.

Kinjal Dagli

Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Together

Published on 

December 5, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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Imagine a workplace where camaraderie and teamwork are not just buzzwords but the daily reality. This utopian environment is what employees need to thrive. Yet, in many workplaces, this goal still needs to be achieved. 

In 2022, only 32% of U.S. employees felt genuinely engaged in their jobs. Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report indicated that employees who are not engaged or actively disengaged cost the world $8.8 trillion in “lost productivity.” Plus, most employees—about 69%—hesitate to voice workplace concerns, further hindering genuine connections.

Despite these challenges, the benefits of a positive work environment are clear and significant. 

Engaged employees significantly contribute to better business outcomes, as shown by comparing top-quartile (highly engaged) teams to bottom-quartile (less engaged) teams:

  • Absenteeism: There's an 81% reduction in absenteeism in teams with higher engagement.
  • Turnover: High engagement results in up to 43% less turnover in these teams.
  • Customer Loyalty/Engagement: There's a 10% increase in customer loyalty and engagement in teams with high engagement.
  • Productivity (Sales): Teams with better engagement achieve 18% higher productivity.
  • Profitability: Profitability is 23% higher in the most engaged teams.

Fostering positive workplace relationships is not just beneficial — it's essential for a thriving and efficient work environment.

Why are workplace friendships important?

Gallup data shows that having a best friend at work has become much more critical since the pandemic with the rising rate of remote jobs. 

We spend much of our life at work — over nine years, to be precise. Having a few close friends to navigate professional challenges during this time ensures we stay motivated, curious, and capable of driving over career speed bumps.

The biggest perks of building work friendships include:

Boosts job satisfaction, loyalty, and retention

When employees work with people they like, the work becomes likable, too. 

Workplace socialization is strongly linked to positive outcomes for employees and employers. Employees experience elevated job satisfaction and loyalty. And employers see increased employee engagement and retention, profitability, and workplace referrals.

Enhances collaboration and teamwork

Judgment-free attitudes and dependable coworkers who double up as work friends make collaboration a smooth experience. Employees don’t need to walk on eggshells when asking a question that they consider “silly” or worry about an overflowing inbox when they’re OOO for a few days. 

Makes stress a lot more manageable 

Gallup’s State of the Workplace 2023 report states that although the world has recovered from the worst of the pandemic, employee stress remained at a record-high level. 

Having a support system to air out frustrations is an excellent way to regulate emotions and feel grounded. Work friends lend an ear and help employees feel less isolated in a difficult situation. These invaluable traits help them overcome obstacles and significantly reduce stress levels. 

Increases work productivity

Being driven to produce better quality work is easier when surrounded by work friends and creates a sense of shared purpose and responsibility. Employees learn new skills and improve existing ones, and team performance reflects a positive graph. It’s a win-win for all.

Contributes to a supportive work culture for new hires

For someone starting a new job, walking into a workplace where coworkers are supportive can make a significant difference. 

These colleagues often become the pillars of a positive work culture, offering assistance and understanding as you navigate the different facets of your new role. Their readiness to help not only eases the transition for new hires but also cultivates a culture that values growth, empathy, and team spirit. 

eBook Not Sure Where To Start? Pick The Best Mentorship Model For Your Organization

12 tips on how to help employees make work friends 

Just 2 in 10 employees report having a best friend at work. 

Many people are starved of office camaraderie, but your organization doesn’t have to be a part of that statistic. Use these tips to promote office networking and help employees make work friends in any organization or role.

1. Encourage employees to prep a conversational introduction

New hires often introduce themselves plenty of times in the first few weeks at their new job, so having a formal yet approachable introduction handy is a good call. This introduction is a great starting point for office camaraderie. Encourage them to write one that speaks to your expertise and professional goals while giving a little peek into your hobbies.

Here’s an example you can share with new hires:
I’m Eric, and I am thrilled to be joining this team. With my experience in marketing, I hope to bring a fresh new perspective to the work we do here, and I’m keen on absorbing the wisdom of my teammates to make this collaboration successful. When I’m not forecasting market trends or crunching numbers, I’m usually nose-deep in a thriller novel or playing tag with my dog. I’m a coffee lover, too, so if you need a strong cuppa and light chat, drop by my desk/grab some time on my calendar!

2. Ask them to sign up for peer mentoring

Peer mentoring programs at work it is an effective tool to expand horizons at the workplace. It opens avenues for seeking support to overcome challenges, learning more about essential skills for your professional growth, and getting consistent inspiration and motivation to be the best version of yourself.

P.S. If your workplace doesn’t have a mentoring tool yet, check out mentoring platforms like Together — we can help your organization set up peer mentoring programs, and our customizable pairing algorithm ensures employees are matched with the right peers. 

3. Have employees practice active listening

Active listening is one of the most compelling ways to let someone know you value them. Ask employees to listen to their colleagues’ verbal and non-verbal cues instead of planning an immediate response or cutting off mid-sentence.

4. Urge employees to join Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

ERGs are present in about 90% of the Fortune 500 companies, and for good reason. They go a long way in promoting inclusivity and fostering positive connections in the workplace. Joining an employee resource group that aligns with an employee’s goals helps them develop a sense of belonging and access support from like-minded individuals who will inspire them.

Employees from varied backgrounds are a part of ERGs, making them an excellent place to access mentorship for professional growth. Mentoring software like Together can help employees match with experienced ERG leaders and receive structured guidance, communication tools, and networking opportunities.

5. Organize team and company-wide lunches

Few things in life bring people together the way food does. It’s an excellent ice-breaker and lets employees understand their colleagues' preferences, lifestyles, and cultures.

If you’re working remotely, encourage team leaders to host a virtual lunch or coffee break where team members can share their favorite snacks or beverages on camera. This virtual experience can be a fun way to learn about tastes and cultures, mirroring the experience of sharing food in person.

6. Schedule non-work catch-ups

Encourage regular short catch-up sessions between colleagues in any office setting, whether remote, in-person, or hybrid. 

For remote workers, this could be a 15 to 20-minute casual video call monthly. In a physical office, consider suggesting brief, informal meetings or coffee breaks. 

Also, have team leaders allocate an extra five minutes before meetings for small talk, creating a relaxed environment for all team members to engage and connect before discussing work-related topics. This approach helps maintain a sense of community and supports networking in various work environments.

7. Organize team volunteering events

Team volunteering activities are not just about giving back to the community; they also serve as a powerful catalyst for building friendships at work. By engaging in meaningful projects outside the typical office environment, employees can bond over shared experiences and values, enhancing their sense of unity and teamwork.

8. Promote health and wellness challenges

Starting health and wellness challenges within the workplace can spark a collective spirit among employees. These activities encourage teamwork and camaraderie, as employees motivate each other towards common health goals. Such initiatives are not only beneficial for physical well-being but also for forging stronger interpersonal connections.

9. Facilitate inclusion of remote employees

Creating an inclusive atmosphere for remote employees is crucial. Encourage them to actively participate in virtual team activities and discussions about personal interests. This approach helps bridge the physical gap, ensuring that remote employees feel as much a part of the team as those in the office, fostering stronger bonds across the organization.

10. Establish interest-based affinity groups

Affinity groups based on common interests or backgrounds can be instrumental in connecting employees across different departments. 

Whether it’s a book club, a sports team, or a group for working parents, these groups provide a platform for individuals to share their passions and experiences, leading to the development of meaningful workplace friendships.

11. Implement interactive fun activities

Interactive fun activities within the workplace are excellent for breaking the ice and encouraging employees to engage in light-hearted, informal interactions. These activities should be thoughtfully integrated into the workday to stimulate communication and camaraderie, contributing to a more relaxed and friendly work environment.

12. Support social learning initiatives

Encouraging social learning through organized group discussions, role-playing sessions, or storytelling can significantly enhance the workplace dynamic. These initiatives not only facilitate professional development but also allow employees to interact in a more relaxed and collaborative setting, paving the way for forming genuine friendships.

Building stronger workplace relationships through mentorship

Creating meaningful connections in the workplace takes work. Whether through organizing small lunches or volunteering events or establishing affinity-based groups or ERGs, each step plays a crucial role. But, an often underutilized way to deepen workplace relationships is mentorship. 

Mentoring programs can significantly enhance the workplace experience, offering personal growth and stronger professional bonds.

Mentorship is about more than skill development — it’s about cultivating lasting, supportive relationships, especially in diverse and evolving work environments. While individual efforts are critical, the effectiveness of a mentorship program also hinges on the tools and platforms that organizations use to facilitate these connections.

Comprehensive mentorship platforms like Together support seamless mentor-mentee matching, development tracking, and program impact assessment. It uses customizable pairing algorithms to create relevant pairings and provides resources to ensure meaningful mentorship experiences​​.

Take Together for a spin to see how it can strengthen work relationships!

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