There are a lot of reasons why we may or may not enjoy our jobs. From how fulfilling we find the work, to how much money we make, to the hours we’re required to keep, a complicated tangle of factors are involved with determining our job satisfaction and engagement. Due to our tendency to focus on elements such as salary and productivity, we tend to overlook an incredibly important facet of our experiences in the workplace: our friendships.
At a time that according to Gallup workplace engagement is lower than ever, it’s essential to take a look at the things that really make us feel good about our jobs, which are often the people we are surrounded with.
Think about it this way, what would make you more excited about your job, your KPI’s, the intranet, performance reviews, email upon email and the instant coffee or having genuine, real friendships with your co-workers. Relationships that allow you to connect, commiserate, laugh, and have some fun at work? The answer to me is obvious, and it’s the reason why I want to put a spotlight on the importance of fostering friendship in the workplace.
In this article, I’ll explore why it’s so important to have social connections in the workplace, dig into how powerful work friends are, and explain how gamification can help foster socialisation at work.
We are social creatures
The same way that many animal species naturally live their lives in groups, instinctively choosing to be in each other’s company, human beings too, are hard-wired to be social. We naturally seek the companionship, approval, and guidance of others, and we’ve done so since we were Neanderthals in caves as part of our survival.
In fact, our social nature is part of our biology, our neurology. We even have a hormone that exists explicitly for that purpose. Oxytocin, often nicknamed the love hormone, encourages us to bond with friends, lovers, and family members. When we are physically close to others, our brains are flooded with oxytocin, giving us feelings of well-being and warmth that encourage us to connect with others more and more. In fact, studies have shown that oxytocin can even help increase our trust in other people.
And it’s not just about warm fuzzies; socialising is a matter of life or death and I’m not trying to be dramatic. Humans need each other to survive, not only to meet our primary physical needs for food, shelter, and reproduction, but also to keep us well. It’s proven: being socially isolated can increase your risk for premature mortality (dying early).
Now, I’m not saying that you’ll die if you don’t have friends at work. But I am saying that you’ll have a much better time in the office if it’s filled with at least a few friendly faces.
Friends at Work
There’s science to back up this claim too. According to Gallup, close work friendships can boost employee satisfaction by 50%. And people who have a best friend in the workplace are more likely to fully engage in their work - by 700%. That’s no small potatoes.
There’s a myriad of significant benefits to friendship in a workplace beyond just productivity and happiness. Camaraderie in the workplace can help tie employees together, allowing us to feel like we belong and we’re not in it alone. Friends can help support us in difficult times as well as celebrate our successes, making the experience of going to work much more engaging and livelier.
Beyond that, workplace socialisation can contribute to a greater sense of purpose at a job. Your motivation to succeed becomes amplified by the desire to contribute for the sake of your teammates. It makes your day-to-day about more than just yourself and essentially gives you a mission to work toward. The same way that we’re willing to make sacrifices and face challenges for our loved ones, we’re willing to work harder for a team that includes people we care about on a personal level.
Friends and Play
When we play games, physical or digital we tend to forget the challenges life’s thrown at us. Play helps us disconnect the part of our brain that worries, even if it’s momentarily.
Think back to a time you were playing a game, scoring that goal in you favourite sport or defeating the bad guy at the end of a computer game or when passing go and collecting $200. Were you thinking about some work challenge or worrying about the things that keep you awake at night? I doubt it. When we play it lifts us above day-to-day reality.
Our innate, human need to socialise can be leveraged by smart, well-designed purposeful play and gamification, to improve employee engagement, retention, and performance. A workplace can use game mechanics like friendly competition, collaboration, exploration and social sharing to foster friendship, camaraderie, and purpose amongst employees. It can be used to give employees a mission within their team, encouraging them to work harder not for the company but for their peers.
If isolation taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t take our social ties for granted. It’s clearer than ever that socialisation is a core motivator. Strategic play and gamification can tap into this and improve employee engagement, help organisations reach their goals and improve individuals’ lives.
So ready to play?
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