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The power of workplace friendships – scarlettabbott

The business benefits of workplace friendships.

Last Sunday, our oar-some team at scarlettabbott took part in York’s annual Dragon Boat Race. Under the name the Doggy Paddlers we rowed for Guide Dog puppy Archie, the little guy we’re sponsoring through his guide dog training programme.

With no rowing experience – and varying levels of fitness within the team – we powered our way to victory in two of our three races, finishing a highly respectable 12th overall (out of 36).

Before stepping on board, our team ‘helmsman’ briefed us on technique and safety. Lining us up two-by-two, he told us that the person paddling next to us was our buddy, and that if anything should happen on the water, helping our partner was our top priority.

It’s not unusual for young school students to be paired up in this way to ensure safety on school outings. But this concept of ‘buddying up’ is fairly unusual for adults, especially in the workplace.




The power of workplace friendships

Management consultancy firm Gallup believes that pairing up at work can add serious value to all organisations. Their workplace evaluations begin with a 12-question employee survey that measures how well workers’ various needs are met. High survey scores indicate strong employee engagement.

Item 10 on the survey is ‘I have a best friend at work’ and this survey statement has often puzzled employers or been seen as irrelevant. According to a blog at, Gallup’s researchers readily admit that senior executives balked at the idea of using the Q12 survey. Why? Because they couldn’t understand why the friendship item was included in the survey.

However, as workplace culture continues to evolve, more research shows that friendship at work is very important for ensuring colleague happiness and also for boosting productivity.

Donald Clifton, the former educational psychologist who founded Gallup and developed the Q12 survey was keen on measuring workplace friendships. He and other researchers – including management professors based at American universities – have shown that employees with a best friend at work tend to be more focused, more passionate, and more loyal to their organisations.

They also get sick less often and have fewer accidents – indeed some workers operating in a dangerous environment like mining have been encouraged to buddy up with a best friend at work, helping to reduce injuries and fatalities.


Reassuring and empowering

Many companies now actively encourage colleagues to become friends with one another and form the bonds that not only boost happiness but also productivity. From Ikea to Facebook to Google, workplace friendships are being encouraged.

Workplace friendships – in particular, very close friendships – build trust and loyalty. High quality relationships also give colleagues emotional strength during times of stress and adversity. From an employer’s perspective, employees also change jobs less frequently, boosting retention.

As the scarlettabbott team discovered on Sunday, working as part of a well-organised team can produce good results and foster pride – even when we’re well out of our comfort zones. But paddling sat beside our buddies was immensely reassuring and empowering… especially when faced with the risk of a dunk in the River Ouse!



Want to know more about fostering close relationships at work? Talk to us.