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How To Build Meaningful Relationships In The Workplace

Feeling happy and motivated at work comes down to several different factors.

Some employees are motivated by working towards their next pay-rise or promotion. For others, establishing a healthy work-life balance is of the utmost importance – these people value most highly the ability to juggle their personal lives alongside work without stress or pressure. Generous benefit schemes, the option to carry out meaningful work and being challenged every day can also influence employee happiness.

One thing that’s becoming increasingly obvious, is that workplace friendships are an essential part of employee wellbeing.

Why are workplace friendships so important?

  • Retention – One study found that two-thirds of employees would stay at their organisation longer if they had more friends in the office.
  • Collaboration – Establishing meaningful relationships with colleagues helps to establish trust, which makes communication and collaboration more natural. NASA discovered that fatigued crews with experience working together made fewer errors when under pressure than crews that had never worked together before.
  • Productivity – People are happiest when they socialise for 6-7 hours per day. Without social connection in the workplace, employees could experience heightened stress and loneliness, ultimately resulting in a drop in efficiency and output.
  • Camaraderie – The average employee spends more time with their colleagues than with their family and friends, which makes it all the more important to have a workplace support network. This is particularly true when it comes to celebrating workplace successes and commiserating when things go wrong.

Seven ways to develop friendships at work

1. Introduce yourself

Employees shouldn’t be afraid of putting themselves out there in order to build friendships in the workplace.  Making introductions, whether it’s in person or via email, is a great way to strike up an initial conversation, and is especially important for new employees.

2. Make time for work colleagues

Deadlines, meetings and hefty workloads often get in the way of socialising at work, but taking time to get to know colleagues outside of the meeting room is essential. Post-COVID, this could include after-work drinks, team building activities, lunch dates or one-to-ones. For colleagues that work closely together, it is especially important to set aside time to socialise.

3. Provide help and support

It’s so useful to have someone to lean on for support and guidance at work. Employees who position themselves as approachable and helpful will quickly develop meaningful relationships with their colleagues, who will turn to them when in need of assistance.

4. Be a dependable teammate

Reliability is key to building friendships in the workplace. That means replying to emails, arriving on time, answering phone calls, committing to realistic work deadlines and delivering on promises.

5. Find a mentor

Acquiring a mentor is a fantastic way for employees to build a meaningful relationship with a colleague, but it can also serve to further extend their professional network, which means more opportunities to make friends. Whether an employee is looking to be a mentor themselves or find someone to mentor them, the relationship will provide a useful source of support.

6. Ask Questions

To develop meaningful friendships at work, conversations need to extend beyond meaningless small talk. That means it’s important to ask lots of questions and really focus on listening to the answers. Active listening can have an enormous impact on the quality of a conversation –  perhaps even the difference between a friend and an acquaintance.

7. Be patient

It’s necessary to remember that friendships don’t happen overnight and not all colleagues will get along naturally. While it’s important to be friendly and professional with all colleagues, it’s no use forcing a friendship that isn’t there.

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