Whenever someone asks me what my favorite part is about working at Padilla, I always give them the same answer: the people. I’ve been so fortunate to spend nearly seven years working with folks who I not only like as coworkers, but as people, too.

And it appears I’m not alone: according to a 2015 TINYpulse study, employees listed “great colleagues & peers” as the number one thing they love about their jobs. Additionally, in the company’s 2014 study, employees said their peers are the number one reason they go the extra mile.

Liking the people you work with isn’t just a nice perk – it can have a large impact on your engagement level. Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report lists 12 engagement elements that are “proven performance management practices that can boost the outcomes of individuals, teams and the entire organization.” Number 10 on the list: “I have a best friend at work.” According to the study, only two out of 10 employees agree with this statement, yet this question consistently shows a strong relationship to improvements in customer engagement, profit, employee safety incidents and more. Not to mention the fact that, as the report says, “to ignore friendships is to ignore human nature.”

Having friends at work can make a huge difference in an employee’s engagement level, and companies should be finding ways to help cultivate and foster these relationships. Here are a few ways to do that:

  1. Coordinate engaging team building activities. Be sure to pair people from different departments or teams, so employees have a chance to get to know coworkers they may not interact with every day. Last year, the Padilla Richmond office participated in a Ravenchase Adventures scavenger hunt, and each team was made up of people who didn’t work together often. Not only did we have a great time doing the activity, but we got to know each other better.
  2. Schedule social activities that aren’t work-related and/or are outside normal work hours. From happy hour events to bowling to baseball games, sometimes it’s nice to leave the office behind and get to know coworkers in a different setting. Employees are more likely to get to know the person behind the job when work topics aren’t front and center.
  3. Give employees an opportunity to show their appreciation for each other. Everyone likes to be recognized for their hard work, and sometimes it means even more coming from a peer than a manager. At Padilla, employees can fill out a “Kudos” card to recognize a coworker for doing something great. Each Kudos card is worth $5 to be used however the employee chooses, and a random sample of the Kudos cards are shared at each staff meeting to give employees even further recognition.
  4. Ensure leadership is setting an example. Employee engagement starts at the top; it’s critical that leaders participate in these activities and build personal relationships, so that other employees feel comfortable doing so as well.

How does your company help foster relationships among employees?