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There is often a misconception that one should not develop real friendships in the office, keeping ''life'' entirely separate from the workplace. Many organizations do not understand the impact of healthy friendships in the workplace. Research shows that social connections at work can boost productivity, increase creativity and reduce stress.
Friendship groups and social acceptance are important for an individual's ''subjective well-being.'' An experiment in 2011 that looked at individuals' subjective well-being found that sociometric status, the respect and admiration an individual has in face-to-face groups like colleagues, has a stronger effect on one's well-being than socio-economic status. The management must, therefore, facilitate an environment conducive for positive interactions.
Office friendships can increase drive and productivity. Ben Waber, a research scientist, demonstrated that adjustments like bigger tables in lunchrooms can boost office morale and productivity by 25 percent. He indicated that larger tables facilitate bigger groups of individuals building relationships, leading to a larger network to tap into. Organizations with space for large tables must test out Waber's theory.
It has been found that networking in the office is also useful for creativity. Waber mentions the importance of branching out of the comfort zone and diversifying the friendship group. Accordingly, having a diverse social group at work makes individuals more innovative. Also, being with individuals you are able to relax with makes you feel more comfortable being yourself, allowing you to think ''outside the box.'' Encourage your employees to interact with various types of individuals and broaden friendship groups.
Finally, having a friend or a support network at work gives employees a safe way to vent frustrations. However, remember to keep things professional at all times. When in the office, work comes first.
• Cultivate long-lasting but professional friendships in the office
• Expand internal network; office friends work as morale boosters
• Branch out of the comfort zone to diversify office friendships
Source: Nicola Turner, Special to Jobs & Careers
The writer is Organizational Psychologist, HRI&C