Things for organizations to try: Improving Friendships at work

Most people are happier when they work with friends. When asked if people would rather have a best friend at work or a 10% pay rise, having a friend often wins out!

3 Friendships at work - org

1. Share the cost of social events

Sharing the cost of social events helps friendships flourish, and friendships can help organizations to flourish too. Encouraging friendships encourages more exchanges of help across the organization, and these exchanges are a form of relational power which help improve collective performance.

How to do it:

  • Offer to pay half the cost of social activities involving four or more employees.
  • Set a budget for social activities and then publicize the offer.
  • Meet any resistance with information about human psychology; we're better at asking for help from friends and we do things for friends that we wouldn't do for strangers or colleagues.
  • Celebrate successful examples to encourage others to socialize too.
  • Regularly remind employees who aren’t using it of the benefits and suggest ideas for activities.

Case study:, who were voted fourth in the 2014 Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For, introduced this policy to great success. Founded in 2000, is the UK’s largest online kitchen appliance retailer, supplying more than 4.5 million customers. Employee numbers rose by 60% in just one year, and 85% said they loved their job!

2. Support people whose friends are leaving

Our data shows that organizations see a drop in team happiness when a popular colleague leaves. And the drop is far bigger if they leave due to organizational restructure or redundancy. Acknowledge the impact of these changes with your employees and create opportunities for people to share how they feel.

How to do it

  • Ask the colleague who is leaving whether they have any close friends at work.
  • Reassure them that you know their departure might be hard on their work friends and you want to look out for them.
  • Check-in with each individual to ask how they're feeling about this change.
  • Think of your support as a process, rather than a one-time check-in.

3. Foster friendships through office design

Many of us rely on random interactions to build relationships and these can be encouraged by proximity. To foster friendships within teams, seat people in ways that promote eye contact and discussion. To promote friendships across teams, create spaces that encourage people to bump into one another.

How to do it

  • Create a group interested in office design.
  • Think about how small changes - like rearranging furniture - might help.
  • Think about creating points of interest that people will gather around.
  • Changing the content that gets shared at these points of interest can create new conversation starters for people. For example, try adding a noticeboard or resource library with favourite books, films, quotes and lunch spots.