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Blog : I get by with a little help from my (work) friends


I get by with a little help from my (work) friends

By Sally Brand, Business Development Manager


Do you catch up with your co-workers over lunch? Do you organise regular after work drinks with them?

These activities may seem frivolous but a report released this month from Tel Aviv University, has highlighted that a good relationship with your colleagues is extremely beneficial and can even significantly increase your lifespan.

The impressive report, based on two decades of findings sourced from of the health records of 820 employees aged 25-65, found that those who enjoyed the emotional support of their colleagues had a 140% reduced risk of dying compared with those who had unsupportive colleagues

Dr Toker from the University commented:

“We spend most of our waking hours at work, and we don’t have much time to meet our friends during the weekdays.....work should be a place where people can get necessary emotional support.”

This started me thinking about the importance of strong workplace relationships. Not only do they offer personal health benefits but they also play a key role in boosting organisational productivity, and as a result, increasing the bottom line.

Research shows that employees who have good relationships with their co-workers are more likely to be happy, secure and stay with their company. They are able to deal with the stresses and strains that, at times, our jobs can bring, with greater ease and are less likely to take sick leave.

It has even been shown that many individuals will prioritise good relationships with their co-workers over work/life balance and renumeration.

In Goffee and Jones's influential book ‘The character of a corporation”’ they explore the benefits of strong workplace relationships in terms of ‘sociability’ which they define as ‘a measure of friendliness among members of community’ a trend which happens in both our personal and work lives. Goffee and Jones explain that the benefits of sociability are extensive and working in a desirable atmosphere creates high morale and encourages creativity. It also creates an environment where employees are more likely to go above and beyond their job descriptions.

Many companies are embracing sociability to great effect. Brewery, Heineken International, has 40 sites in 39 countries around the globe with more than 40,000 employees. You’d therefore imagine it’d be difficult to create a sociable atmosphere. However for this company, who’s sales exceed 10 billion Euros annually, the theme of friendship plays a key part in their culture and success. Sociability is apparent everywhere – in communications, leadership.....even in the product. One Heineken employee famously said “Of course, you realise we don’t sell beer – we sell emotional sociability”.

As Heineken and so many other companies illustrate, when nurtured correctly sociability can offer organisations a huge competitive advantage.

However, achieving results requires effort and, as with all 'people stuff', it isn't a one size fits all approach. Like with anything there must be a balance, and sociability handled without this in mind can result in cliques;  in the extreme,compromise to business decisions. An initiative which works well in one company/culture might be a disaster in another. As such it's about you and your people exploring and coming up with ideas which engage them.

The sky really is the limit! Here's some food for thought for improving and maintaining good workplace relationships:

·        Give your people the chance to join in or learn a skill- for example, start a book or sports club or learn a language together. At learnpurple, our Argentinean colleague provides fun introductory Spanish lessons over a spot of lunch once a week for those who are keen!

·        Create a social networking page on your intranet site so that people can catch up on work/non-work related news. Hot Topic, the pop culture retail chain, has long had an internal social networking site where its 6000 employees can get to know the people behind the badges on the shop floor.

·        Provide break out areas where people can have lunch/coffee. Links of London’s head office in London has an awesome play room where people can catch up and socialise.

·        Organise frequent and varied outings and get everyone to attend from office juniors to board directors Give the option for employees to invite partners/family members from time to time too.  At  Lexington Catering they have activities as varied as bowling, bbqs, trips to Thorpe Park, meals out and networking events, giving colleagues the opportunity to relax and get to know each other outside the workplace.

·        Finish up half an hour early on a Friday for drinks and nibbles – encourage people to step away from their desk and chat to those outside their immediate team. At Bare Escentuals on a Friday they open up their very own ‘Bar Minerals’ and get everyone together to share successes –an uplifting end to the working week!

·        Get out of the office for a team building day/weekend - it could be a professionally organised away day or perhaps a trip to 'Go Ape' or a treasure hunt in the office – think outside the box, your budget doesn't have to be vast (and make sure you get some pictures for people to remember the fun!). For example, we arranged a two day motivational team building session for Elite Hotels which included fencing with an ex-Olympic professional and psychological fun and games with a mind reader!



Does your organisation encourage strong relationships with colleagues? Do you have any top tips?

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