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How Best Friends at Work Could Help End the ‘Big Resignation’


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When Abigail Lee joined skin care start-up Ren, she was straight out of college and had just moved to London.

Lee told CNBC that she was a fan of the brand after trying its products over the counter at upscale UK store Harrods a few years ago. While in school, she looked for an internship with Ren, which turned into a full-time position. Because the business was small, it was easy to bond, Lee said. “You [didn’t] you have to wait to go to the water [cooler] talking to someone, it was just the culture that the two founders built … [a] a family-type culture, really, it breaks those barriers. “

Soon she befriended a Spanish colleague, Eva, the company’s customer service manager, and the two became close. “She’s 10 or 12 years older than me … and I would say I was a lot more serious about things. And she taught me to laugh at myself.” Although the two occasionally clash in meetings, “[we’d] then get up and go to Waitrose for lunch… The space that the founders created was the platform, and then the rest was up to us, ”Lee said.

When Ren was sold to Unilever in 2015, Lee decided it was time to leave, having spent seven years with the company. Did her friendships keep her in the role during 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 stand up for you – that’s such a luxury, “she said. She and Eva continue to be good friends, 13 years after meeting.

Best friends as best employees

Lee is not alone. According to consultant Bruce Daisley, having close friendships in the workplace can help retain staff, and it’s a topic he explored earlier this month in his Make Work Better newsletter. “One of the things that helps forge these friendships is a sense of shared experience. The things we do with other people just seem more important to us,” he wrote of the relationships that people did. develop.

Gallup research suggests that having a best friend at work is directly related to the amount of employees invested 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 engaged (63%) as women who say they don’t (29% ), “the company said in a 2018 article online.

Daisley, a former vice president of Twitter, said he was a close friend of people he met in his first role in selling ads in the 1990s, including Pinterest executive Nick Hewat and Dara Nasr, who runs Twitter in the UK and having a “best friend” at work could go some way to stem the tide of the so-called “Great Resignation” – a record 4.3 million Americans have left their home. employment in August, according to the US Department of Labor.

However, those relationships are much more difficult to maintain when many people are still working from home, he said.

One organization Daisley spoke to was proud of its familiar and empathetic culture, but struggled to maintain it as people worked farther and farther from the office. “[One employee] told them… I feel like maybe I was so captivated by this [culture], that this prevented me from resigning. Now I’m going to find a job that pays me five thousand dollars more, and I’m leaving, “he told CNBC via video call.

While some companies are seeing higher productivity and better bottom lines, some are also seeing “their highest quit rate in 10 years,” Daisley said of the companies he works with.

According to a survey by the recruitment firm Randstad, this “seller’s market” is expected to continue, with 56% of workers having recently changed jobs or “actively seeking”. The company surveyed 27,000 people in countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia between August 23 and September 12 for its Workmonitor report, released this month.

“The market is rebounding, people are seeing possibilities… [when] working from home, and if it’s extended, kind of lowers the thresholds for looking around, ”Randstad CEO Jacques van den Broek told CNBC via video call.

Take care of your people … recognize them, but know that, you know, they might slip away before you know it.

Jacques van den Broek

CEO, Randstad

While managers do not become close friends of their employees, staff still look to them for support. A Randstad poll from December 2020 suggested that a “remarkable” percentage of people felt emotionally supported by their employer, with 71% saying they did, but things have now turned, according to van den Broek. “In the beginning [of the pandemic], people feel taken care of and supported, but now the market is opening up and [employees] sense, maybe I should create a new balance. “

The latest Randstad research has shown that 62% of people between the ages of 25 and 34 “feel undervalued and are considering looking for another job with better pay and better benefits,” according to an emailed statement. “We call it the great enlightenment; they take the reins of their own careers,” said van den Broek.

What about the concept of the best friend at work? “We see it a lot in our business… our staff are on average 27, 28 years old… People are getting closer to each other, they’re on the same learning curve… getting to know the company [and] they are in the same phase of life, ”he said. And the concept can be applied in a leader-employee relationship, he added.

“My main challenge is to reach out to people and be, in a good way, the best friend at work. It might sound naive because you are still the boss. But we want to instill that. respect and I respect you, and I’m interested in who you are as a person… we also have better results. “

And van den Broek said staying close to employees will help retain them. “The call is pretty clear: take care of your people… recognize them, but know that, you know, they might slip away before you know it.”

Does technology have a role to play in building closer relationships? While that could be a catalyst, Daisley is cautious and said he’s been given plenty of slots for games where people can walk around a virtual office and overhear conversations in an effort to recreate the ubiquitous moment of the water fountain. “I don’t think we have yet [found] these solutions where people go, wow, it does something completely intuitive but underserved, ”he said.

For Lee, the bonds she made in old roles are likely to be lifelong friends. “We are close enough to open [about] our difficult times. There are losses, there are friction and things in our lives and we can look to these people, and that is very precious, ”she said.

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