Friends at work boost productivity and well-being

The research is clear. Having friends at work boosts productivity, retention, and well-being. But making friends at work can be harder than it seems, especially in large, flexible workplaces. In this piece, I discuss how organizations can use technology to make it easier for new and existing employees to integrate socially.

This post is an excerpt. For the full article, visit Mapiq.

It’s no wonder that companies like Zappos, Google, and Dropbox work hard to create work environments that foster friendships. Friendships at work boost belonging and authenticity, which are both crucial contributors to psychological well-being. Furthermore, research shows that the most productive workgroups are those whose teammembers can identify a best friend at work. Fostering friendships at work, however, has its challenges, especially in large, flexible workplaces. Thankfully, localization and communication technology can help us shape accessible and inclusive social environments that foster friendships.

How to foster friendships at work?

As research shows, one key to fostering friendships at work is to increase the density of social interactions. There are several ways to do this. One way is through physical design. Companies like Pixar, for example, concentrate key amenities in central areas to foster spontaneous interactions. Yet even with such areas, it can be hard to join a spontaneous social moment. Let me explain why.

Let’s take a closer look at social interactions at work. They often take place in areas out of sight, like at the coffee machine or in the cafeteria. This can make it challenging for a person at their desk to see and join a social moment. What makes things even more difficult is that the timing of such social moments can be hard to predict. These circumstances are exacerbated in flexible workspace. With people sitting in different places every day, it can be even harder to arrange or join social moments. Thankfully, technology is here to help. Technology can help people form friendships at work by making social patterns more visible and accessible.

Localization technology can foster social interactions

Here’s how. Localization technology can be applied to determine when and where groups of people congregate, as is already done by companies like Humanyze. An intelligent system can then take this information to invite others to join these moments. For example, …

To read more about applications of technology to foster friendships at work, follow the full article at Mapiq.

How Coworking Boosts Belonging

Today, over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely. This has led US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to state that we are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. One of the contributors to this phenomenon is the growth of the gig economy and remote work, which has reduced the opportunities for people to interact face-to-face while working. Thankfully, the global growth of coworking is helping professionals address this issue. By joining a coworking space, remote and independent professionals can reverse the loneliness epidemic by boosting their sense of belonging.

This post is an excerpt. For the full article, visit Workbar’s blog.

Why Belonging Matters

Belonging ranks highly among our universal psychological needs. It takes the second level in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and masquerades as Relatedness in Ryan & Deci’s Self-Determination Theory. The key to fulfilling our need for belonging is to be part of a community and to experience meaningful relationships characterized by trust. Joining a coworking space is a great way to do so.

Coworking can go a long way to enhance belonging. Recent research has found that 83% of coworking users report feeling less lonely since joining a coworking space. The relationships people form in these spaces offer social and professional support, and are a clear part of the value proposition. “We offer a flexible workspace that also enables you to build relationships with fellow members,” states Devin Cole, Workbar’s Head of Partnerships.

At the base level, coworking spaces create belonging by hosting a consistent group of people in a shared space. The resulting social interactions lead to an initial sense of community. “It’s just nice to be around other people,” says Jamie, a software engineer who works remotely from Workbar*. “I felt very isolated if I was just by myself at home working all the time.” Bringing people together already offers value, but coworking spaces don’t stop there.

Displays showing which members are present builds familiarity within the coworking community.

Displays showing which members are present builds familiarity within the coworking community.

Trust Among Coworkers Enhances Belonging

The key to achieving the full sense of belonging is to build trust among members. This is best achieved when coworkers get to know each other at a personal level. A coworking space offers two types of occasions for members to build trust. The first includes planned events put on by the community management team, like happy hours and lunch excursions. The second includes spontaneous encounters, like crossing paths by the elevator or sharing lunch in the kitchen. Effective community managers and members will create additional occasions by intentionally introducing members to each other.

For these occasions to be effective, members need to show a genuine interest in getting to know each other. At planned and spontaneous moments, members are encouraged to introduce themselves to each other. It is then effective to share a personal detail, and to ask for one in return. Understandably, this is not obvious for everyone, so it is encouraged to use icebreakers to get things going, especially at group events.

Smart coworking spaces also nudge members to get to know each other in more subtle ways. Workbar, for example, features signs created by members with fun facts about themselves. Several coworking spaces also commonly display profiles of members that are currently present. While these may not necessarily lead to a conversation, they do increase the familiarity among members.

Name plates featuring fun facts about fellow members allow coworkers to get to know each other at a personal level.

Name plates featuring fun facts about fellow members allow coworkers to get to know each other at a personal level.

The Takeaways

Joining a coworking space is a great way for people who would otherwise work from home to satisfy the psychological need for belonging. Coworking spaces offer a range of memberships that allow members access anywhere from a few days a month to 24/7. At the space, coworkers will get the most value by introducing themselves to fellow members, both at events, and through spontaneous encounters. The community management can facilitate this connection-building through events, introductions, and icebreakers. Finally, the design of the space can ensure work still gets done through smart zoning.

Foster positive relationships to enhance well-being

Optimizing a work environment to enhance well-being can yield many rewards. Among the benefits are increased engagement and improved collaboration. One key way to enhance well-being in the workplace is to foster positive relationship…

Curious to learn more about the benefits of positive relationships at work? For the full article, visit Mapiq.

Putting the "We" in Well-being


This past June, I published an article discussing the influence that trust has on well-being in the workplace. Two types of trust can exist between coworkers: competence-based trust and affect-based trust. While many understand that competence-based trust is essential in a professional environment, the value of affect-based trust is not yet evident to all. As I identified in my master's thesis, the existence of affect-based trust is crucial to well-being and productivity at work. Read my article on Medium to find out how you can build affect-based trust with your colleagues.