Wednesday July 4th, 2007

AccountTemps survey: most workers and executives believe office productivity positively affected when co-workers are friends outside the office...

With the hours spent at work, it's not surprising that most people have friends in the office. In some cases, that develops into friendships outside the office. AccountTemps recently surveyed senior executives and office workers in the nation's 1,000 largest companies about office friendships and productivity. The survey showed that 63 percent of workers and 57 percent of executives believe office productivity is positively affected when co-workers are friends outside the office. Brandi Alexander is branch manager of AccountTemps in The Woodlands.

"Those who are able to form friendships early on the job are likely to acclimate more quickly and stay on board for the long-term just because, I mean, they are friends and they respect each other. So, you know, when you are working with someone that you respect and that you know personally, you want to do better for them. Whether, you know, you're co-workers or managers working together, you're eager to come to work and you're excited to come to work because those around you, you know, you enjoy being with them, and you know we work ten-hour days sometimes, so if you're not enjoying being around those you're with, you just first of all aren't happy to be there, second of all, you're not as productive, don't get your deadlines met, et cetera." Ed: "What happens if your friend is your boss?" "If your friend is your boss, there has to be, like I said, there's a fine line you can't cross. And there you just have to know, you know, when it's time to work and you're having a work conversation, it has to be different from, you know, the friendship conversation you would have maybe after five or on the weekends."

Alexander says we often spend more time with our co-workers than with our families. The survey shows there are benefits to friendships that extend outside the office.

"Colleagues who are friends are more likely to support one another when faced with challenges or new responsibilities, which kind of gives a boost to team spirit--you know, extra motivation. You know, some of the most successful companies are those that have employees that are eager to come to work, like I said. Those that bring, you know, new ideas to the table, are very creative and passionate about their job, which you find whenever you have a team of people working together that know each other on a personal level. When friends work together, they are more likely to remain engaged, which in turn, like I said, leads to increased productivity."

Alexander says while there are long-term benefits to friendships that form in the office extending outside the office, there are some things to remember.

"While work friendships are typically productive, workers and managers need to be aware of the risk of 'group think,' you know, where brainstorming can be stifled when friends tend to just agree with each other rather than, providing, you know, competitive ideas and solutions. So you don't want to, you know, have that friendship 'Oh yeah, you know we're best friends, so whatever she said that sounds like a great idea,' when maybe they don't really agree with it. But in the same sense, you have to remember you can't show favoritism. So if you're, you know, friends with everyone in your office but you're really good friends with one person, or you know, that's the person you spend more time with, that's where it becomes difficult to manage friendships in the workplace. And that, you know, could also lead to office gossip where you have co-workers that are like, 'Oh, so-and-so and so-and-so are best friends, so that's why so-and-so got that project or so-and-so got that promotion.' Things of that nature."

AccountTemps survey 150 senior executives and 519 full- or part-time office workers in the nation's 1,000 largest companies about office friendships and productivity.

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