Workplace friendships are becoming a thing of the past.
The prevalence of remote work has lowered the amount coworkers interact with one another. This has meant that a majority of people no longer put as much value in workplace relationships as much as real-life relationships. A Pew Research Center survey from last October found that 65% of respondents feel less connected to their coworkers. Zoom calls and virtual communication have made cultivating relationships difficult.
“The role of workplace friendships is now getting a big test, as companies seek to rebuild office cultures with many of their employees still remote part of the time,” says The Wall Street Journal’s Lindsey Ellis.
A June Gallup poll suggested only 17% of hybrid office-remote workers had a “best friend” at work, down from 22% in 2019,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
Why it’s important
As we previously reported, corporations have been very public lately in discussing how remote work has affected company cultures. A recent Deloitte study shows that 75% of respondents prefer remote and report improvements in health and fulfillment, but the loss of water cooler discussion and shared spaces has made workplace connections weaker, which has negative implications on stress, work-life balance, and relationships.
“It’s easy to dismiss them as superficial. But the relationships we develop with such workplace acquaintances are much more important to our sense of connection and community than many of us realize… Recent scholarship on human sociality, including my research, has added some complexity and nuance to this equation, showing that social interactions with acquaintances and even strangers also have the potential to alleviate loneliness and boost well-being,” says University of Kansas professor Jeffrey Hall.
Many companies are attempting to bridge these gaps by hosting more in-person company meetings and special events. Companies like KPMG International and Salesforce.com have begun transporting thousands of their employees to in-person training sessions and opening up work-and-wellness centers that are available to their entire staff, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Hall suggests that employers returning their employees to the office should create specific times that allow their employees to socialize and connect. “Employers could design in-person workdays to balance free and obligatory time housed in a place that accommodates talk for its own sake.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Feintzeig suggests employers with remote workers set aside 10 minutes on the agenda during meetings to freely chat or set up breakout rooms for less than four people to talk. She also encourages random online get-togethers to share experiences and discussions.
A recent study of 1,000 US Employees found that relationships with co-workers is one of the least important factors in job satisfaction, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Nearly two-thirds of those who had experienced high turnover at their companies said it had become less worthwhile for them to socialize and get to know colleagues.” .
“Half of workers between the ages of 18 and 25 said workplace friendships were “not at all important,” or “minimally important,” according to the survey by Capterra, which is owned by Gartner Digital Markets.”