Hybrid work is harming workplace friendships and how you can fix it

Workplace friendships are about more than coffee runs and shared lunches. Research shows that cultivating a sense camaraderie amongst colleagues is linked with improved employee engagement. But what does it take to build meaningful relationships with peers in the era of hybrid and remote working?

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The missing piece of the engagement puzzle: workplace friendships

From enhanced output levels to serious performance gains, many leaders recognize that improving employee engagement is linked with several significant benefits. However, there’s a lot of uncertainty about what it takes to upgrade workplace satisfaction levels.

Non-negotiables like high-performing digital tools and a supportive manager are already on most leaders’ radars. But there’s another employee engagement must-have that tends to get overlooked: meaningful relationships with colleagues.

In an era of work where many employees expect their jobs to be more than just a paycheck, cultivating an exceptional culture is crucial for keeping your workforce engaged. Gallup found that women who have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged as those who don’t. When bonds between coworkers deepen, employees are driven to take positive actions like pitching in on projects and sharing expertise, which end up benefiting the business.

Unfortunately, just two out of 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that they have a best friend at work. Yet, according to Gallup’s estimates, if that ratio moved to six in 10, organizations could achieve 36% fewer safety incidents, 7% more engaged customers, and 12% higher profits.

What’s holding employees back from achieving “workplace bestie” status?

There are a few factors to blame for the lack of close ties in the workplace. Some employees might see a clear dividing line between work and home life. While they might be friendly with their colleagues, they wouldn’t consider their work peers to be true friends. Occasionally, leaders and managers might stand in the way of workplace friendships, seeing workplace chitchat as a productivity inhibitor.

Yet, the most common culprit for a lack workplace friendships is limited opportunities to connect with peers across the organization. Now that the working world is digitally driven, leaders can’t rely on the office to serve as the shared space for friendships to blossom.

Instead, organizations must create digital workplaces that empower employees to get to know their colleagues, their roles, and how to best work as a team virtually. Increasingly, the old office water cooler is getting replaced by social intranets, which allow teams to make genuine connections in the remote working environment.

4 steps to help employees build meaningful workplace friendships

Part of what makes cultivating close coworker relationships so challenging is that it must happen organically. If employees feel like they’re being pushed to connect, they won’t build the kinds of authentic bonds that are correlated with better workforce engagement.

Fortunately, there are a few steps that leaders can take to lay the foundation for an open, inclusive culture that brings out everyone’s best. Key initiatives include:

#1. Make it easy to learn who’s who

Today, most employees are involved in projects that encompass more than their immediate team members. They might be part of a cross-functional group or tasked with working with colleagues in another department to ensure a key project makes it across the finish line.

When employees and managers correctly set the stage, these cross-functional collaboration practices can also lead to more opportunities for personal connections. Leaders must proactively work to ensure that employees from different groups or teams have ample chances to get to know one another.

Social intranets enable all collaborators to get a better sense of who’s involved in their next big project. Most platforms include an online people directory that helps employees learn who’s who and find collaborators with specific skills or interests. Detailed people profiles allow employees to learn more about what makes their colleagues tick, while social features like the ability to follow colleagues help employees to build internal social networks.

Unily People Directory

#2. Spice up your social channels

To boost the friendship-building power of your social intranet, leaders need to ensure that their platform includes plenty of different social channels that employees can use to connect with colleagues. Creating public and private channels within a social intranet helps to guide conversations and keep users focused on the topic at hand.

A social intranet empowers employees to play a part in shaping your culture, with forums for idea generation, user polls, discussion boards, and newsfeeds. It also offers space for events, online and in-person, blending the workplace worlds to offer something for everyone.

Outside work social channel on Unily's employee app

#3. Embrace peer-to-peer recognition

A lack of recognition is a leading cause of employee switch-off. According to Gartner, peer feedback can enhance performance by as much as 14 percent. But remote working is impacting our ability to say thanks. Instead, people experience leaders need to be thinking about how they can reintroduce a culture of recognition digitally.

An employee experience platform can help by bringing native reward and recognition features to every employee. Kudos allows colleagues to show their appreciation to colleagues who have lent a helping hand, while kudos leaderboards encourage healthy competition as employees race to be crowned the ‘most helpful’ employee.

Awarding kudos on unily employee app

Spotlighting best practices: How employees harness Adecco’s intranet to make new friends

Two years ago, cultivating workplace friendships at Adecco Group France often proved challenging because each region and brand had its own individual intranet, in turn hindering company-wide collaboration and communication.

To boost connectivity, the leading workforce solutions provider sought to introduce an intuitive, social employee experience platform that allowed all 30k employees to connect and build organizational awareness. Today, the platform has almost the same number of monthly users and is responsible for fueling the Adecco’s collaboration and inclusivity across their business and geographies.

Case Study

The Adecco Group fuels digital transformation with a feature-full intranet

The Adecco Group in France is the country's #1 Human Resources provider, placing an average of 120,000 interim staff in temporary jobs every week.

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When it comes to social channels, Adecco Group recognized that some employees might be hesitant to interact with content posted for 30,000+ people to see. So, the organization chose to break down some of their channels to allow a smaller community of users to collaborate, without the pressure of posting in an all-company channel. Adecco has also created a global diversity and inclusion channel, which encourages users to share their experiences with hashtags such as #TalentWithoutLabels.

Adecco Social Channels

Turn workplace friendships into your secret weapon for improving employee engagement

If you’re eager to boost your workforce’s engagement levels, you can’t overlook the importance of close workplace friendships. To learn more about how you can harness a social intranet to cultivate enterprise-wide connectivity, get in touch for a free demo of the world's leading employee experience platform.

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