Work friends: Why they are more important than you think
Friday morning runs, wild camping, swimming, and badminton. These are activities you usually do with friends or family – but for a group at Aquaporin, events like these have been the norm for years and they have created a unique sense of togetherness and belonging.
The Commercial Engineering Forward Osmosis (CEFO) team already enjoyed each other’s company. But when they began doing things together outside of work, they felt even more empowered in their day-to-day jobs. Suddenly, people dared to make mistakes, began developing ideas that challenge the norm, and pushed the boundaries in experiments even further.
For Laboratory Officer Erica Key, friendship is a vital part of her job that directly impacts her work.
“Sometimes, we will come up with questions that may seem stupid because we are not afraid to state our opinion. It is an open environment where we have a lot of different competencies, so we complement each other and make each other better,” she says.
Over the years, this tendency has spilled into other teams at Aquaporin. For Formulation Specialist Libor Zverina, who works in the Deep Tech Center, going on a shelter trip was an excellent way to get back in touch with nature and a great way to spend time with co-workers in a setting outside of work, where a barbeque, talking, and laughing made it a night to remember.
“It was fantastic to go on a trip where we spent quality time together as a team,” Libor Zverina explains. “I enjoyed it, as I have always enjoyed being out in nature. Enjoying great food and the company of my co-workers made it a great event. I would go again if we plan a new trip.”
For you and the company’s greater good
Most of us feel more relaxed in the company of friends. We communicate well, encourage each other, and help each other get better. According to Erica, this is can be extremely beneficial in a work setting.
“You want to make each other better. If you are genuine friends and enjoy working together, you will also want to do everything to help each other succeed at work,” she explains.
It’s a little like a band when it starts jamming; the drummer brings the beat, someone adds a guitar riff and the singer may come up with a chorus. In this way, everyone helps and inspires each other. The same applies to the CEFO team and at the Deep Tech Center, when many different people ‘jam on’ new inventions and improvements to formulations, experiments and tests.
“It helps a lot that we sit close together, as everyone can join in on discussions. Suddenly, everyone is in on the debate, and we bring our different competencies into play. We like to have jam sessions, when we come up with crazy ideas and everybody chips in with their ideas,” says Erica.
This is beneficial for the company, too. When co-workers are friends, job satisfaction and productivity go up. People also recommend the workplace to others more often.
Be the buddy you want
An article from Harvard Business Review highlights the value of having a buddy system at work. When you start as a new employee, having a veteran employee as a guide carries more weight than you would think. It not only expedites onboarding, but also increases the productivity of the new worker.
In a study conducted by Microsoft, 97% of new employees became more productive quicker if they met their buddy more than nine times in the first 90 days. If they only met their buddy once in the first 90 days, the number dropped to 56%.
At Aquaporin, we have created a mentoring system to help colleagues when they first join the company. Through their buddy, new colleagues get to know the ins and outs of the workplace, get tips, and can meet other colleagues more easily.
It is human nature
At Aquaporin, we pride ourselves on mimicking nature with our biomimetic membranes. But, like in nature – some things are just natural. You cannot force friendship on people, but you can create the best possible circumstances for creating long-lasting friendships at work. It requires an effort from both management and the employees themselves, but it is worth it.
Taking the time to do things as a company, such as having a summer party, going on inspirational trips, or sharing exciting information, is all part of creating trust, caring for each other, and inspiring people. As a colleague yourself, you can also invite people to join you when you go for a walk, recommend a podcast or TV show – or just engage them in conversation.
Sometimes it is the small things in life that make all the difference. In a time when more and more people are experiencing loneliness, we encourage you to be the friend you would like others to be for you. After all, it’s human nature to be social.