Friends in the Workplace Survey

September 19, 2019

Paris Stevens

"11% surveyed revealed they currently didn’t have a best friend at work, but would ideally like one."

What motivates you at work? Financial reward or happiness in the office? We wanted to find out whether friendships in the workplace were as highly regarded as they used to be and to understand what employees really want from their office relationships.

We asked participants from 120 companies across the UK:

  • Which is more important to you at work?
  • How does having a “work best friend” impact your job?
  • What would be your preferred method of improving worker relationships in the office?

And found out that…

  • 61% of workers would choose happiness at work over salary, with 81% of females voting that way, compared with 45% of males.
  • When asked about having a best friend in the office, 57% said it makes work more enjoyable, with productivity and creativity increasing also.
  • 11% surveyed revealed they currently didn’t have a best friend at work, but would ideally like one.

It is clear to see from these stats that both managers and those in HR should look to foster an environment where friendships can blossom. This will, in turn, lead to greater reward for the business as a whole.

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Stand out points from the Friends in the Workplace survey

45% of those surveyed who chose happiness over salary, said that having after work drinks once a month was their preferred way to improve relationships in the office. This was followed, in second, place by the desire to have a designated breakout area to eat and spend time together away from desks.

Why interesting? Those not motivated by salary don’t need expensive methods of team building. Drinks down the pub / having somewhere to chat away from their desk will suffice.

Of 120 employees across all ages, demographics, position and company sizes, when asked what is more important to them at work – salary or happiness –39% responded salary with 61% choosing happiness.

Why interesting?Workers would prefer to be happy than financially rewarded and companies need to act accordingly. Work ethos is important. People may now be leaving jobs not just for money, but for a nicer working environment.

For those more motivated by salary, interestingly, 30% chose post-work drinks as their preferred method of getting to know their colleagues better. 47% said they were either not bothered about improving relationships as they are at work to work, or they would rather keep their personal and work lives separate.

Why interesting? The classic post-work drink remains a popular choice as a means to get to know people yet, surprisingly, nearly half responded negatively towards getting to know their colleagues. This suggests that for those driven by money, getting to know their team mates is less important and they prefer to focus purely on their work.

Regardless of what drives you most at work, it seems the majority of us agree that having a best friend in the office is a good thing. 57% of respondents said it makes work more enjoyable with 32% saying they were more productive and 22% feeling more creative. The reverse of this is that 16% said that they are liable to spend too much time talking, including using instant messaging services and 6% said they felt it was actually unproductive.

Interestingly, 38% responded saying they don’t have a best friend at work, but 11% of those would like one.

Why interesting? If we are to assume this is representative of all workforces, managers and HR should be looking at the 11% as untapped potential. If having a best friend at work improves happiness, which in turn makes work more productive, then companies should be looking to foster a working environment that encourages employees to take their working relationships to the next ‘friendship’ level.

This next section takes the recipients and segments them by job title, gender, age and company size allowing us to dig further into the responses.

Variable – job title

  • 85% of managers, directors and business owners surveyed prioritised salary over happiness
  • Compared with 70% of entry-level, interns and executives saying happiness is more important than salary.

Why interesting? Potential disassociation between those higher up and those below about what drives motivation.

(Dark blue, salary. Light blue, happiness)

Variable – gender

  • 55% of males valued salary over happiness
  • 81% of females valued happiness over salary.

Why interesting? These results potentially conform to traditional stereotypes. Males show an almost 50/50 split, whereas females place happiness over salary.

Delving deeper into these results, we found that:

  • 51% of the men who chose salary said having a best friend at work made it more enjoyable and they were more productive
  • 59% of the females who chose salary said having a best friend at work made it more enjoyable and they were more productive
  • 54% of men who chose happiness said having a best friend at work made it more enjoyable and they were more creative
  • 55% of females who chose happiness said having a best friend at work made it more enjoyable and they were more creative.

Why interesting? Slight difference between those who chose salary vs happiness in productivity and creativity, however, whatever the segment, it all points back to having a best friend in the office being a good thing.

(Dark blue, salary. Light blue, happiness)

Variable – age

  • 82% of over 45’s chose workplace happiness over salary

Why interesting? Offering perks instead of financial rewards could be the best way to motivate an older demographic

  • All age groups surveyed value happiness over salary
  • Of all age groups, 18-21-year olds admitted that having a best friend at work could result in too much time spent talking!

Why interesting? Whilst nice for everyone, ensuring employees have a best friend at work may not always be in the company’s best interests for all age demographics…

  • 30% of 26-34-year olds said that they come to work to do work first, and worry about team relationships second. This is the highest percentage of any age demographic

Why interesting? These are formative years in career terms, so these results are not at all surprising. Based on this, allowing employees in this stage of their careers to focus on their job roles as opposed to bonding with colleagues, is an acceptable approach.

(Dark blue, salary. Light blue, happiness)

Variable – company size

  • 69% of employees in SMEs valued happiness over salary compared with 56% of those in large companies
  • 26% of employees that work in a company of less than 10 employees don’t have a best friend in the office. This drops to 12.5% for companies larger than that.

(Dark blue, salary. Light blue, happiness)

Charts from the overall data

For those who chose happiness

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