Seeing yesterday’s ONS research on Measuring National Well-being reminded me how important our working relationships are to our well-being. Eight hours a day, five days a week is a long time with our colleagues – I know that’s more time than I spend with my family and friends!
A study by Relate in 2014 found that employees are about as likely to have as much daily contact with work colleagues (62%) as they are with own children (64%). Just under half were more likely to have daily contact with their bosses than with their mothers (26%) or friends (16%).
I know from our CIPD research that relationships at work are a major influence on our sense of well-being. When you ask people about their job and whether they enjoy it, the first thing they talk about is the people – either that’s what makes their organisation a good place to work, or it’s the reason they want to leave.
Engagement surveys tend to ask whether we have a best friend at work, with correlations between positive colleague relationships and employee engagement. Yesterday’s ONS survey asked a similar question - 58% of people said they had at least one close friend at work, and 22% said they have three or more close friends. However, 42% of respondents said they didn’t count any colleagues as close friends.
From an employer’s point of view, if we’re happy at work then we’ll be more productive. Robertson Cooper cite workplace relationships as one of the 6 essentials of workplace well-being, which in turn affects business-level outcomes. In fact, their survey of over 40,000 UK employees found that good working relationships are a strong predictor of positive psychological wellbeing.
So what can employers do to help enrich the quality of relationships at work? Here are a few to think about:
In our day jobs it’s so easy to put our heads down and plough through our inbox. Opportunities to socialise give us the time and the space to get to know each other. My department had an away day yesterday to start planning our research strategy for the next operating year – it was a given that we would produce a plan, but what was really valuable was the time to interact with each other over lunch.
There’s a reason that relationships feature so strongly in great places to work surveys – we’re social creatures and having a sense of belonging to our team and a supportive organisation culture is an extremely powerful productivity driver.
¹ BLOOM, N., SADUN, R. and VAN REENEN, J. (2010) Recent advances in the empirics of organizational economics. CEP Discussion Paper No. 970, May.
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