How a Work BFF Could Be the Key for Better Retention

“Through friendship…we can contribute to the fundamental shifts that are urgently needed to achieve lasting stability, weave a safety net that will protect us all, and generate passion for a better world where all are united for the greater good.” —United Nations

Friendship is an unparalleled force: It can forge ties in ways other methods of relationship-building—like networking, negotiations and strategic partnerships—can’t. The bond is so powerful that in 2011, the United Nations recognized its contributions to peace between countries and communities by declaring July 30 to be the International Day of Friendship. In celebration, corporations can take stock of how workplace friendships reinforce employee loyalty and team spirit as well as catalyze better business output.

Workplace friendships put a “pep in the step” of employees. Those with strong workplace friendships are almost three times more likely to say they love their employer and two times less likely to be poached by another company. The congenial environment and open communication friendships foster also crack open employee creativity. Employees who claim to have a best friend at work are not only happier and healthier but also are seven times more likely to be engaged, motivated and productive than are employees without an office best friend. And those with work friends have a 35 percent higher commitment to quality.

Why do friendships have such a positive impact on staff?

Socializing and relationships are the antidotes to stress, making them a much-needed salve for the office environment. Plus, no one can better sympathize with your stressful work situation than the friend sitting at the desk next to you. An in-office buddy is a built-in support system and someone to gab with between completing tasks. Studies show humans are happiest when they can socialize at least six hours a day; being able to do so at work makes them look forward to going to the office and increases their will to perform well.

Careers benefit from in-office friendships. Work friends give each other informal feedback on each other’s job performance (65 percent of workers report wanting more feedback) and act as a sounding board for professional moves. When these bonds transcend office hierarchy, lower-level employees can learn the behind-the-scenes functions of a more upper-level staffer, gaining insights into management’s expectations and values which can help them position themselves for advancement. 

Companies don’t have to cross their fingers and hope employees form close ties—they take an active role in cultivating them. Providing staff with communication software like Slack, an online chatroom for offices, sparks both professional and informal conversation. And throwing the occasional office party or a weekly lunch potluck encourages socialization. Nonprofit Bright Pink, recognized for high employee happiness, hosts a monthly Wellness Hour for activities such as yoga or rock climbing. The Nerdery, a digital strategy consultancy, holds Fun Friday with beer and food each week—and it’s repeatedly been named one of Minnesota Business’s 100 Best Places to Work For. But low-key activities can have positive results too. Heading to a park on a nice day for routine meetings might lift spirits and spur collegial conversations between workers.

Maintaining a level of professionalism in the office is paramount but doesn’t preclude workplace friendships. Employees get by better with a little help from their friends—and employers reap the benefits from those close bonds.