Only 2 of 10 U.S. employees consider themselves their ‘best friend.
NEW YORK (AP) — Crystal Powers began a new job remotely in February 2022 as a medical records supervisor. She has only met two of five people who report directly to her, but she has made contact with them all. challenging to bond With her fellow managers online.
“I was used to that face-to-face of going into people’s cubicles and talking with them one-on-one. It just doesn’t translate as well to a remote environment,” said the 42-year-old Powers, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
Just 2 in 10 adult U.S. employees say they definitely have a “best friend” at work, according to a quarterly Gallup survey done in June 2022. According to Gallup workplace and well being researcher Jim Harter, the percentage of people under 35 years old dropped 3 points compared to before-pandemic 2019. It was 21% from 24%. He said that there was no change in the percentage of workers aged 35 and over.
Harter explained that it is even more important to have a good friend at work because of the dramatic rise in hybrid and remote employment.
“We’re seeing in the data that younger people in general are feeling more disconnected from their workplaces,” he said. “You can attribute some of that potentially to remote work. If they’re less connected to their workplace, they have fewer opportunities to connect with other colleagues and to develop those kinds of friendships that they might have had in the past.”
Many employees suffered from the pandemic. particularly parents, educators and frontline workers, Gallup stated that such friendships provided social and emotional support during a difficult time.
They were also beneficial to employers. Gallup discovered a strong connection between the work of best friends and profitability, safety and retention.
Research shows that employees with a good friend at work are much more likely than others to be engaged customers and partners, to get more done in less amount of time, to support a safe workplace and reduce accidents, and to share and innovate ideas.
Karen Piatt began a new job at a medical relief organization just weeks after the 2020 pandemic. She conducted all her interviewing online for the position. works remotely full time.
“It’s the first time in my 25-year career that I was hired for a job without meeting the hiring manager in person,” said the 52-year-old Piatt, who lives just outside Seattle. “It was nearly two years until I met my colleagues face-to-face.”
When she finally did, at a retreat last year, “it was really special,” she said. “We hugged and talked as if we had known each other for years. In fact, we had.”
Harter stated that best friends on the job do not make a difference in workers’ happiness and add value to their employers. Without strong positive feelings for an employer, “You can have friendships at work that are likely to be dysfunctional and probably turn into gripe sessions.”
Powers stated that her team is almost at retirement age. One of her team members is older than she is. She is the only person to be hired as a manager for remote workers since the pandemic. It has been difficult to build a team.
“They’re not super-interested in doing icebreaker-type stuff or things like trivia get-togethers,” she said.
Her staff lives about 45 minutes from her office. They commuted in the morning before the pandemic. Powers is well aware that her team meets up for casual, digital events without her. Each team member has biweekly check ins.
“It’s been more challenging than it has been in past positions to get buy-ins on things and earn the trust in me as a supervisor, because they still don’t really know me,” she said.
Powers enjoys working remotely, however.
“I’m hopeful that over time we’ll come up with strategies to better engage both with our colleagues and with our subordinates to make it successful,” she said.
Henry Crabtree, 26, in London, said that when you have work friends, “You’re not only working with each other but for each other.”
He was appointed to a small marketing group for a software company with workers around the world in December 2021.
“Seeing each other outside work, especially when colleagues are over from other countries, really helps forge these friendships,” he said.
Harter makes a distinction between trust levels among work besties, and casual work friends.
“It’s a lot more difficult to establish close kinds of relationships when you’re more distant,” he said.
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., President and CEO of The Society for Human Resource Management, points out many benefits that work friends can bring to the table from all walks of life. He places employee retention at the top of his priority list.
“Secondly, what we found is it fosters workplace harmony. I’m not talking about sexual relationships. When you’re at work, we have an interest in ensuring that `family’ life is calm, peaceful and doesn’t have drama. So from an employee relations standpoint, when I get heated and upset about something, that person sitting next to me who’s my bestie can say, `Johnny, chill out.'”
He also draws a distinction among close friends and distant friendships at work.
“If there’s a disagreement between besties, time will usually heal,” Taylor said. “That’s not always true for other friendships.”
Gallup found that workers sometimes “need the OK” from leaders to develop close friendships on the job. Taylor agrees.
According to him, more companies are encouraging friendships. Nearly 500 employees from around the globe work for his company. They often buy lunches to encourage new friendships.
“From a diversity, equity and inclusion standpoint, we’re trying to get people together who have different sets of experiences, lived experiences, backgrounds, etc.,” Taylor said. “The idea is, you go to lunch with a stranger and make them a friend.”
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