A survey from Office Team, the nation’s leading staffing service, showed that, aside from a paycheck, nearly one quarter of respondents were most thankful for friendly coworkers at their current job. More than 400 U.S. workers employed in office environments were polled. A good benefits program took second place with 20 percent, and an easy commute, challenging assignments, supportive manager and flexible hours followed in descending order.
The survey results prove true for much of the local workforce. Candace Smith of Cadence Bank in Childersburg, for example, said her coworkers are like family.
“We all know that benefits come and go and policies change, but the friends that I’ve made here are absolutely lifelong friends,” Smith said.
The tight knit relationship she shares with coworkers improves their work “because there is not any hostility or bickering,” she said.
“I’ve worked here three and a half years, so we left coworker status a long time ago,” Smith said. “I’m here eight to nine hours a day, so I spend more time here than with my own family. We know pretty much everything about each others lives, and when that happens it becomes a friendship, then it becomes your second family.”
Even outside of an office environment, having friends at work can greatly improve job satisfaction and productivity. For second grade teachers Karen Torgerson and Rachael Glausier at Indian Valley Elementary School in Sylacauga, friendship gives them twice as many resources to draw from to teach their students and lead the 10 second-grade teachers at their school.
“We’re team leaders, so if I do more work on a project I don’t mind, because I know (Glausier’s) going to do the next thing,” Torgerson said. “We kind of have each other’s back without thinking about it.”
Glausier said they freely share each other’s classroom materials and probably spend two or three hours working together in a typical day, though “it’s hard to put a time on it,” she said. “Do we want to count how many times I run across and knock on her door? And usually when I ask for something, she already has me one. We really feed off each other and know what the other is missing. It’s second nature, automatic.”
Torgerson said having people she trusts at work makes her job more enjoyable.
“I love coming to work,” she said. “I don’t dread it. It’s a lot easier to come to work when you have somebody you can count on and someone to vent with, and you know that when you talk to that person, it’s not going anywhere. They’re just going to listen.”
Their six-year working relationship turned into a friendship years ago as they have watched each other’s families grow and frequently spend time together outside of work.
“I knew her before her son started school, and he’s in fifth grade now,” Glausier said. “She knew me before I was married and had kids, and now I’m married with two kids. All those milestones in my life, she has shared with me.”
Job satisfaction has much to do with how much effort employees put into getting to know each other, OfficeTeam says. Grabbing coffee together or sharing online videos – seemingly job distractions – go a long way toward improving office relations and even efficiency.
"Many full-time workers spend more than half of their waking hours at the office, so having friendly colleagues can make all the difference when it comes to job satisfaction," said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, in a press release. "While you can't always control who you work with, employees do have a say in other aspects of their job that can improve their overall happiness."
OfficeTeam suggests five changes professionals can make to be happier at work:
Socialize with coworkers.
Participate in activities like team lunches or birthday celebrations. Getting to know colleagues builds camaraderie and makes working together more fun and productive.
Step away from the desk.
Clear your mind by taking short walks or, weather permitting, enjoying lunch outdoors. Use allotted vacation days so you get adequate time away from work.
Explore flexible scheduling options.
Find out if your employer supports alternative work arrangements. You may be able to reduce your commute by working from home on certain days or modifying your hours.
Take advantage of perks.
Make use of benefits beyond health insurance and vacation time, such as on-site exercise facilities, discount programs or dry cleaning services.
Set goals and meet them.
Work toward career objectives by volunteering for stretch assignments outside your normal responsibilities. Build new skills through professional development programs.
Lakeside Hospice in Pell City offers many of the aforementioned team-building opportunities for its employees, such as an upcoming Christmas party. Executive director Sharon Smith said she makes a conscious effort to see that their 29 employees and numerous volunteers are taken care of and happy.
“We try to make sure everybody comes into the office and gets involved in things and works as a team,” Smith said. “We have different functions where we recognize employees for different things, and we have a Blessing of the Hands where all the staff comes in and our ministers bless their hands for they work they do. We also meet every morning to talk about our patients and have a prayer time where employees can ask for prayer requests.”
Because hospice nurses don’t spend much time in the office together, they make use of the time they do have and also focus on building relationships with their patients.
“Their jobs are so demanding and most nurses have an eight-hour plus day,” Smith said. “It makes all the difference in the world when they feel supported versus just a number. We try to give them positive feedback and constructive criticism. We’re faith-based and not-for-profit too, so I think that makes a difference. And we try to watch for a burnout if a nurse has had several deaths to work out some time off for them.”
It takes effort to build a trusting relationship with coworkers, and even longer to develop one that continues beyond the workplace. But Smith is hopeful she can find the same enjoyment in her work interactions when she begins a new job with her company Dec. 4.
“I actually accepted a promotion for an assistant manager position at our Mountain Brook branch,” Smith said. “It’s definitely bittersweet to leave everybody here, but hopefully I can build those same relationships there. It will just take getting used to the people and learning their personalities. It takes time.”
Contact Emily McLain at email@example.com.