After nearly two-and-a-half years of remote and flexible work, employees persist in bypassing free beer Fridays in favor of avoiding a commute and Zooming from home. However, many employees are still looking for ways to socialize and bolster work relationships. Now thanks to collaboration technology, this kind of workplace socializing can happen in the office, remotely, or anywhere in the world.
Work friendships can be what keep people engaged in their jobs. The New York Times recently ran a piece called "The Magic of Your First Work Friends
," in which reporter Emma Goldberg shared that the percentage of workers who had a best friend at work had dropped from 22% pre-pandemic to 18% this year. To some researchers, this is cause for concern.
Workplace friendships can meet our very human needs for connection and community. They can push us to excel at our jobs by sharing great work habits, demonstrating effective soft skills, and providing daily role modeling.
There is one type of friend almost everyone has: the buddy who can help you get ahead in life, the friend from whom you need or want something. You don’t necessarily use this person—the benefit might be mutual—but the friendship’s core benefit is more than camaraderie … Expedient friendships might be a pleasant—and certainly useful—part of life, but they don’t usually bring lasting joy and comfort. If you find that your social life is leaving you feeling a little empty and unfulfilled, it might just be that you have too many deal friends, and not enough real friends.
And the pitfall to transactional friendships is that they don't provide the same joy as non-transactional friendships:
They feel incomplete because they don’t involve the whole self. If the relationship is necessary to the performance of a job, it might require us to maintain a professional demeanor. We can’t afford to risk these connections through confrontation, difficult conversations, or intimacy.
The virtual workplace doesn't necessarily discourage workplace besties any more than it discourages collaboration. What it does is create new opportunities for people to connect.
Workplace leaders now have the exciting opportunity to cultivate rewarding workplace friendships through their hybrid work environments, which blend in-person and virtual friend-making opportunities. The benefits to figuring out how to combine organizational culture with the tools that assist employees in developing and sustaining those work-friendship habits are going to be just as profound to the way business gets done as watercooler chats and elevator pitches were.