Coworker relationships play an essential role in virtually every work environment. After all, very few of us work in a vacuum. But does building relationships at work increase workplace productivity—or have the opposite effect?
From what we’ve learned, it can go either way, depending on how employers manage their company culture, workforce, and work environment. Here’s what we know about the connection between coworker relationships and workplace productivity—and how to keep them both positive.
The Good: Interpersonal Relations at Work Offer Many Benefits
Healthy workplace relationships are advantageous for both employers and employees. For example, a recent Gallup study found that employees who have a best friend at work are not only more engaged, but demonstrate increased productivity at work.
Gallup found that coworker friendships are strongly linked to positive business outcomes, including profitability, worksite safety, and employee retention. Workers with “besties” are less likely to experience boredom or burnout and will engage more effectively with colleagues and customers.
Interestingly, Gallup also found that workplace friendships particularly benefit remote and hybrid workers by allowing them to feel more informed and connected, improving communication, and creating trust.
And there’s more—several studies indicate that workplace relationships lead to greater creativity and innovation, plus enhanced knowledge sharing, which benefits both employees and their organizations.
The Bad: Negative Relationships Can Hamper Workplace Productivity
As with most things, there is a flip side here. When interpersonal relations at work take a negative turn, it can depress productivity and morale.
Case in point: CareerBuilder recently surveyed 5,000 employees and managers to identify the top 10 productivity killers. On that list includes office gossip, too much coworker chit-chat, and excessive break times.
In addition, when employees feel compelled to conform with their coworkers, it can create a stagnant groupthink mentality that crushes creativity.
Even more potentially damaging is when employees form cliques, some workers are inevitably excluded, which can lead to their disengagement. And if those coworkers are bonding over perceived grievances, they may feed each other’s resentment, potentially creating a toxic work environment for everyone around them.
How to Build Positive Relationships at Work
Our conclusion: it’s clear why building relationships at work is important—as long as they’re of a positive nature. It’s up to an organization’s leadership, HR, and managerial team to set the right tone and expectations that leads to increased productivity at work, while nipping negative behaviors in the bud and engaging in proactive conflict resolution.
By creating a work environment that supports positive coworker relationships, employers can leverage their many benefits. Here’s some tips for building healthy workplace relationships:
- Nurture an inclusive, family-like company culture that celebrates individual and company achievements and encourages camaraderie and trust.
- Create opportunities for team building and collaboration through group projects and goal-setting/tracking.
Offer internal networking opportunities through company events and fun activities. In one survey, 46% of employees said a monthly after-work drink is their preferred method of coworker socializing.
- Ensure that company leaders model relationship-building, regularly interacting with—and getting to know—employees. For example, manning the grill at the company picnic makes a lasting impression.
- Embrace unusual meeting formats, such as “walking meetings”—a practice embraced by tech leaders like Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook. According to a Stanford University study, group walks increase attentiveness and mood, while boosting creativity by 60%!
Done right, encouraging interpersonal relations at work is part of a smart talent management strategy that increases workplace productivity and greatly benefits employees, too. For more on this, learn how workplace friendships not only improve job satisfaction, but lead to greater career success.
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