Despite Shifting Trends, Office Friendships Still Key to Productivity

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According to new findings by the New York Times, Americans are far less likely than workers of other nationalities to form and maintain friendships in today's workplace. In fact, the trend of having friends at work is decreasing rapidly: while 50% of employees in 1985 claimed to have friends at work, today, only about 30% say they have friends in the workplace.

These numbers come at a surprising time, when a heightened focus on culture is the new normal in most workplaces.

One reason for the decline in workplace friendships has to do with length of employment. As employees hop from job to job, they place less value in friendships that will soon end; in a sense, bonding with coworkers is seen as a waste of time. The Times noted the American emphasis on this trend - more than 70% of employees in India invite coworkers to their home while only 32% of Americans could say the same.

In spite of such statistics, consider the reasons to encourage trusting relationships in the workplace:

1. Culture
Simply put, work simply becomes more enjoyable when employees form relationships. Christopher B. Nelson, author of Forbes’ “Can You Buy Your Employees’ Happiness?” notes the importance of promoting socialization in the workplace. Instead of confining employees to their own corners, it is imperative to promote the building of companionships that keep employees loyal. Without such relationships, employees often see no reason to stay with the company.

2. References
As the economy continues to recover and shift, employees should keep in mind the ability to provide contacts for future employers. Instead of burning bridges, employees can benefit from keeping future references in mind as they build relationships with colleagues.


3. Real-World Friends
Friends formed in the workplace can eventually become friends outside the workplace due to the common understanding of workload, culture, management, and internal employee news and insights. These friendships can circumvent place of employment as employees navigate their career path.

4. Productivity
Happy employees are productive employees. Having a productive lifestyle is one of the most important keys to living a long and fulfilling life, according to the American Psychological Association. Happiness also has an impact on creativity and loyalty, according to the Harvard Business Review. Forming relationships can make work more enjoyable, increasing output.

Instead of viewing workplace friendships as counterproductive, it is actually of great benefit for culture and production. Engaging in small talk, paying attention to social cues, and keeping up with coworkers can lead to a more enjoyable workday and greater output.

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