When your employees are friends it can make for a more peaceful and sometimes, more efficient, workplace. Workers who know each other on a personal level are more willing to pitch in and help. Besides that, spending time with people you genuinely care about can make the days go faster and encourage creativity.
You may have to show your employees that it's okay to become friends at work. Here are some ways to encourage them.
If your organization allows, dedicate a set amount of time for employees to regularly interact with each other on a more personal level. Setting aside time for fun can take a lot of different forms, but the goal should be something light that everyone can participate in.
Some ideas include:
Encourage conversation by assigning two or three employees to a particular project or task. With this type of small group, it allows employees to show their more personal side which can help their coworkers understand them better. At the end of the project, take the group out for an intimate lunch to further underscore the bonding element.
Once a month, honor employees with birthdays by taking the entire office out for lunch. Allow the gathering to go on a bit longer than normal to fully give employees time to relax and enjoy themselves. By highlighting birthdays it gives all employees a chance to feel special and show a more personal side to themselves. If no one has a birthday that month, celebrate a silly holiday like National Ice Cream Day or Work Like a Dog Day.
One way to encourage employees to be friends is to discuss it openly at staff meetings or reviews. Sometimes employees hold themselves back for fear of being thought of as unprofessional, but you can help show them how to strike a balance through modeling. Display the friendly type of behavior that is both appropriate for work and allows for personal interaction, and your employees will follow your lead.