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Employee Engagement: Colleagues or Friends?

Do millenials blur the line between friendship & colleagues, and is this a benefit or burden? We explore this debate and give you our conclusions. Read more.

As a millennial, I am constantly being told that I blur the lines of work and play too much, that work friendships should be off the cards, that colleagues should be just, and only, that. But, what does this mean for employee engagement? Boomers and GenXers may say I should steer clear of building a friendship inside the work place, and they may have some reasonable sounding points as to why:

  1. It can be difficult for close friends to be critical of one another.
  2. You may overlook problems or lose integrity.
  3. Everything becomes work-related.

However, speaking as someone who has chosen to work in a culture where friendship is the basis for interaction, I can’t disagree more.

Whilst I do think it is important to be mindful of the above and recognise that a different attitude is required within the confines of work, I am a firm believer that cultivating genuine relationships at work often results in a more productive and happier environment – and increased employee engagement.

The Facts 

A Relationships @ Work study by LinkedIn found that 46% of work professionals worldwide believe that work friends are important to their overall happiness.

A recent study from the University of Warwick found that happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, whilst unhappy employees proved 10% less productive.

According to Sticking Points (Haydn Shaw), nine out of ten millennials say that being able to have fun whilst at work is a key factor in picking a place of work or choosing to remain with a certain company. Friendships undeniably play a large part in enabling fun.

The Value of Friendship

It therefore seems that my sentiment is rooted in science, that friendship can not only change my outlook on work as an individual, but also positively impact the output of a company and result in better turnover rates too.

I text colleagues outside of work, despite having seen them all day, seeking their opinion, planning holidays and art gallery visits, I enjoy spending time with them outside of work! This enhances my 9-6 existence and makes it so much more enjoyable. My colleagues/friends motivate me to come to work and to do my job efficiently, because I don’t want to let them down.

I didn’t plan or anticipate the friendships I’ve made at work – they’re chance, genuine, and I find that they no longer fit the label ‘work friends’ and are more suited to being categorised as ‘friends’.

These are people I know I can laugh with, and do frequently laugh with, that I can lean on should I need to, and that will be around regardless of where we are working or which path life takes. I think we owe it to ourselves to honour these connections, regardless of the fact they began at work, and regardless of whether the rules say we shouldn’t befriend our co-workers, and in turn, you’ll find your life seems much brighter.

This post is a thanks to the people I work with, for being more than just ‘people I work with’.

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Find out more about the people who make up NKD here.

Diana Balan