Written by Nathan Hawes, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at the Backside Learning Center
Maintaining a healthy work environment is essential to the success of the organization and the welfare of its employees. You spend hours and hours with your coworkers and more than likely at some point you will have to work together to accomplish your goals. The people you work with can make or break a job, if you like the work and hate the people it won’t work out, but if you like the people and hate the work then you can probably get through it. And there is some research to back it up too! It may be obvious, but having healthy workplace relationships leads to better collaboration between the team, improved morale, and increased retention of employees. There are many companies and organizations that have ideas on bettering the workplace, whether its a pool table, or a gym located on site, or maybe they provide food. All of which are cool things, but none of them come close at to just having friends at work. One article goes as far to say that work friends can increase your happiness at work as much as a $100,000 raise would. However, I am unsure of how legit that increase would be, and how you quantify happiness. It also seems that people report having fewer close friends at work as they age. This steady decrease changes for people in their sixties report having more close friends. This is likely due to advancement in careers that lead to more responsibilities and opportunities.
Another benefit of having a good relationship with coworkers is that you gain a stronger connection to the organization as a whole. I would be a good example of how this is true. I started as an intern at the Backside Learning Center, at the time I needed one more credit to finish school and the internship seemed like an easy way to get it done. But very quickly I learned about the organization and its mission, and now I am about halfway completed with my Vista service. I became a believer in the organization and I want to support it in whatever way I can. Before my experience here, I was not the type to volunteer or do service, but here I am half a year later fully committed to the organization. The attitude of my coworkers has changed my attitude to be one that is ready to work and wants the organization to be successful. The workplace is one that allows us to be relaxed but at the same time productive to do what we must.
Having friends at work is not the only thing that can help the workplace environment, you can also have celebrations. Outside of birthdays and holidays, workplaces do not come together much. There might not be a reason to have a celebration but that is OK, just have fun with it. Go eat lunch with your coworkers, have a potluck on a random day of the week. At the Backside Learning Center we will have seemingly random celebration whenever we have a surplus of food. After our programs are done, we will have a small party and play a game with coworkers and clients. This really allows us to get to know other staff better but also the people that we serve. Sometimes we can take trips with clients to an event around town. There are plays, sporting events, or maybe a movie, that is a great way to learn more about the people around you and to strengthen those ties. If you are interested in learning more about a healthy workplace, you can check out some of the articles below: