“The question isn’t really, should we mix friends and work. The question is, how do we get it right?” —Alia McKee, co-founder of Lifeboat
A recent study on the state of friendship in America has some business insiders rethinking the role of relationships in the office.
According to a study by Lifeboat, an organization that explores “the art and science of friendship,” 50 percent of baby boomers (those age 50-69) met at least one of their closest friends at work. That number dropped, however, to 42 percent for Gen Xers (age 35-49).
“Friendship is a major dynamic in people’s lives and nobody just leaves it back at home,” Tim Walker, co-founder of Lifeboat, told Forbes for their article, "Debunking the 'no friends at work' rule: why friend-friendly workplaces are the future."
“The question isn’t really, should we mix friends and work,” said Lifeboat's other co-founder, Alia McKee. “The question is, how do we get it right?”
The Forbes article suggests that there are business advantages to cultivating close friendships at work, among them an increase in personal productivity and a stronger likelihood for companies to retain employees.
There are some ways the research could be misinterpreted. For example, Walker was quick to point out to Forbes that it is not quantity that’s important to improve workplace relationships, but quality.
“By more than 2-1, we crave deeper relationships,” Walker continued. Which is why Forbes recommends focusing on company programs that promote more intimate interaction, such as peer mentoring programs.
In fact, a lack of mentoring may be one of the many causes of the gender pay gap, according to a recent panel discussion on women and mentorship during Internet Week New York, a week-long festival that explores Internet business and culture.
As quoted by Main Street, panelist Rachel Sklar believes that, in general, “men tend to get more powerful mentors more easily, and the gender pay gap persist(s).”
Sklar attributes many problems for women in the workforce to a feeling of being outside the “boys club.” The more mentors reach out to female employees, the more women will feel like part of the team.
According to the Lifeboat study, 68 percent of Americans continue to hope for deeper relationships. It seems that if companies seek to increase productivity and company loyalty, cultivating a work environment that promotes profound, lasting friendships and meaningful mentorships may be their best bet.