How Best Friends at Work Can Help End the Great Retirement

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When Abigail Lee joined skincare startup Ren, she immediately graduated from university and just moved to London.

Lee told CNBC that she was a fan of the brand, having tried it on the counter at the prestigious British store Harrods several years ago. During her studies, she sought an internship at Ren, which developed into a full-time position. Because the firm was small, Lee said it was easy to make connections. “You [didn’t] have to wait to go to the water [cooler] to talk to anyone, it was just a culture that the two founders created … [a] family culture is actually breaking down these barriers. ”

She soon became friends with her Spanish colleague Eva, the firm’s customer service manager, and they became close. “She is 10 or 12 years older than me … and I would say that I took things much more seriously. And she taught me to laugh at myself. ” Although the two clashed at times in meetings, “[we’d] then get up and head to Waitrose for lunch … The space the founders created was the platform and the rest was up to us, ”Lee said.

When Ren was sold to Unilever in 2015, Lee decided it was time to leave – he worked at the firm for seven years. Has her friendship kept her in this role all this time? “There were elements [of that]because just going to work and spending time with people who make you laugh and be happy, they care about you, they protect you is such a luxury, ”she said. She and Eva continue to be good friends 13 years after they met.

Best friends as best employees

Lee is not alone. Having close friends in the workplace can help retain staff, a topic he explored earlier this month in his Make Work Better newsletter, says consultant Bruce Daisley. “One of the things that helps to forge this friendship is a sense of shared experience. What we do with other people just seems more significant, ”he wrote about the relationships that people develop.

Gallup research shows that having a best friend at work is directly related to how much employees invest in their roles. “For example, women who strongly agree that they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be involved (63%) as women who say differently (29%),” the report said. companies. online post in 2018

Daisley, a former VP of Twitter, said he is close friends with people he met in his first advertising sales role in the 1990s, including Pinterest CEO Nick Hewat and Dara Nasr, who runs Twitter at Great Britain and has a “best friend”. “At work, it could to some extent stem the tide of the so-called Great Resignation — a record 4.3 million Americans quit in August, according to the US Labor Department.

However, the relationship is much more difficult to maintain when many people are still working from home, he said.

One organization Daisley spoke to prided itself on its familiar culture of empathy, but struggled to maintain it as people increasingly worked outside the office. “[One employee] told them … I feel like maybe I was so fascinated by this [culture]that it stopped me from retiring. Now I’ll find a job that will bring me five thousand more, and I’m leaving, ”he told CNBC via video call.

While some companies have shown higher productivity and better financial results, some also have “the highest layoff rate in 10 years,” Daisley said of the firms he works with.

According to a survey by HR firm Randstad, this “sales market” appears to be continuing, with 56% of workers either recently changing jobs or “actively looking.” Between 23 August and 12 September, the company surveyed 27,000 people across Europe, America and Asia for its Workmonitor, released this month.

“The market is recovering, people see opportunities … [when] work from home, and if it takes too long, it kind of lowers the inspection threshold, ”Randstad CEO Jacques van den Broek told CNBC via video link.

Take care of your people … acknowledge them, but know they may slip away before you know it.

Jacques van den Brook

CEO Randstad

Although managers may not become close friends with their employees, employees still expect support from them. A Randstad poll in December 2020 found that a “remarkable” percentage of people felt emotionally supported by their employer, with 71% saying that was the case, but now van den Bruck says that has changed. “At the beginning [of the pandemic], people felt cared for and supported, but now the market is opening up and [employees] I feel like I should create a new balance. “

A recent Randstad study found that 62% of people between the ages of 25 and 34 “feel undervalued and plan to look for another job with higher pay and benefits,” according to an email. “We call this great enlightenment; they are taking the reins of their own careers, ”said van den Broek.

What about the concept of a best friend at work? “We see this a lot in our business … our employees are on average 27, 28 years old … People really get closer, they go through the same learning curve … get to know the business [and] they are in the same phase of life, “he said. And this concept can be applied in a leader-employee relationship,” he added.

“My main task is to reach out to people and be, in a good way, my best friend at work. This may seem naive because you are still the boss. But we really want to instill in this. Because if you respect me and I respect you and I wonder who you are as a person … we also have better results. “

Van den Broek said being close to employees would help keep them going. “The message is clear: take care of your people … acknowledge them, but keep in mind that, you know, they might slip away before you know it.”

Can technology play a role in forging closer relationships? While it might help, Daisley is wary and said he has received many suggestions for games in which people can walk around a virtual office and accidentally eavesdrop on conversations while trying to recreate a water-cooled moment everywhere. “I still don’t think that we [found] the decisions that people turn to, wow, they are doing something completely intuitive but under-maintainable, ”he said.

For Lee, the connections she made in her previous roles are likely to be lifelong friends. “We’re close enough to open up [about] our difficult moments. There are losses, frictions and the like in our life, and we can reach out to these people, and this is very valuable, ”she said.

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