Do you have a best friend at work?
I heard this for the first time three years ago. I’d just started at Gibson and was becoming familiar with employee wellbeing and engagement surveys. I came across this question from the Gallup Q12 survey and remember thinking how strange I thought it was. Honestly, I’d never thought about it before.
Many people have the same reaction. In surveys, some employees comment that they already have a best friend and they don't need to spend extra time with the people they work with outside of work.
Having a best friend at work simply relates to having someone at work that you can confide in or share an experience with.
Turns out… it can be one of the most important factors in employee engagement and happiness at work. Having a best friend at work can lead to increased:
- Job Satisfaction
Let’s consider the impact this can have beyond employee satisfaction and employee engagement. What if your “best friend at work” was your saving grace when it comes to your mental health? Sometimes, we struggle sharing details of personal relationships or personal challenges with our closest friends out of fear of judgement or not wanting to feel like a burden, but at times a work friend can be the best person to open up to. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults live with mental illness. More workdays are lost to mental health-related absenteeism than any other injury or illness. A study from the “Mental Health in the Workplace Summit” found mental illness is the leading cause of disability for U.S. adults aged 15 to 44.
Know What To Look For
Recognize the signs. It is important for managers/team leaders and co-workers to know and recognize the common signs listed below:
- Arriving late
- Missing deadlines
- Mood swings
- A reliable co-worker suddenly is disappearing for hours or days at a time.
- An unkempt appearance or lack of personal hygiene.
No one should, or has to, handle a mental health challenge on their own. You may be all the help they need or may be the one who can encourage them to get more help. Here’s how:
- Talk To Them & Show That You Care. Do not force a conversation, but say you are available if they want to talk. Saying that you are there can let them know they are not alone.
- Stay Calm. Speaking calmly and slowly helps set the tone for them to do the same.
- Listen. Sometimes, just being there and giving the person the chance to talk is the best help you can provide.
- Show Empathy. You don’t need to have ever experienced what they are going through or don’t need to tell them you are sorry for them. Recognize their feelings for what they are, such as “I can see how frustrating that is” or “you must be really upset”.
- Take Care Of Yourself. Helping others can be tiring. Know the limits of what you can do. You can help and listen as a friend, but you can’t do everything on your own.
Given the prevalence of mental illness, you can expect that employees at your organization are experiencing mental health challenges. That’s why it’s important for your organization to create a culture that supports employees’ mental health. While this may sound complicated, creating a workplace that is supportive of mental health is easier than it seems. Here are five simple ways that your company can support employees and their mental health.
- Promote mental health awareness and destigmatizing it in the office
- Offer flexible scheduling
- Address workplace stress
- Evaluate your benefit offerings
- Provide mental health training for managers
When you openly talk about mental health, the ways you support mental health, and communicate the resources available, employees are more likely to feel comfortable and ask for help if they’re struggling.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust. Do not be ashamed to admit you need help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always staffed and ready to listen at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).