SME: A Friendly Office is a More Productive One

Numerous research studies confirm that happy employees result in a more productive and profitable business. One study found that 69% of employees in SMEs were found to value happiness over salary, which is something to take into consideration as an SME with limited funds for salaries. A happy employee is likely to work harder, take less time off sick and will forge strong working relationships with better communication. What’s more, happiness is infectious, so happy staff will influence happy clients.

Office friendships encourage productivity and creativity

You might not need research to tell you that friends make you feel happy and therefore building office friendships is one of the key factors in increasing happiness at work. However, we are often being told that employee engagement in the UK is low and this is linked to lower productivity, so this research provides an important reminder for SME managers to utilise and profit from. When asked about having a best friend in the office in the same study, 57% said it makes work more enjoyable, with productivity and creativity increasing at the same time. This is when SMEs who want to thrive should prick up their ears and take note.

In support of this, Gallup research has recently validated that having a best friend at work leads to improved business results. When employees care about their team members they are compelled to positive behaviour for the benefit of the business. They might not go that extra mile for coworkers that they didn’t subconsciously want to provide extra support.

Google is famous for their university campus-like offices which are designed to cultivate lasting friendship among their employees. However, they also have an overwhelming entertainment budget. How can SMEs boost employee morale and create a friendly office environment without needing a huge budget?

The good news for SMEs is that creating a friendly office does not need expensive gimmicks. It is about encouraging and listening to your staff – and it can work for anybody.

Our top tips include:

  • Socialise outside the work environment

It’s always fun to go for weekly drinks after work at your local pub, but it’s even better to find something where you can be certain that everyone is included. Fun organised activities are one idea to consider. The word ‘organised’ can go hand in hand with ‘enforced fun’, as people tend to think of awkward and boring team building exercises. Things have changed since the old favourite of leaning back and trusting your colleagues to catch your fall, or terrifying office karaoke sessions – now there are exciting city treasure hunts using a GPS and interactive quizzes.

  • Create areas for staff to socialise

The office layout goes a long way in helping staff to build better working relationships. If you have a dedicated area for lunch breaks, this will encourage them to step away from their computer screens and talk to their colleagues about something other than work.

As a small business owner you need a balance of course – you don’t have time for your staff to be playing ping-pong when they need to be getting essential work done. However, you don’t have to create a nightclub atmosphere or scatter around the brightly coloured bean-bags synonymous with trendy startups. Keep it fitting for your business so that visiting clients won’t be put off and work continues without distraction.

If you have room for a sofa area away from the desks, this is a good start. A pool table is also a great addition to encourage team activities and socialising. If you don’t have room for a pool table, a darts board will also promote the same fun environment.

  • Be flexible

Everybody works differently. A good way to reward conscientious staff with your trust is to offer flexible working, so if they are taking a break to chat to a colleague or taking a pub lunch with their team, let them continue – as long as the work still gets done.

  • Reward group achievements

Offering a prize for the team of the week like shopping vouchers or a monetary bonus can encourage teams to work together for a fun goal. It also helps create a camaraderie and supportive feeling within the office.

  • Team lunches

Chatting over food is always beneficial as you automatically begin to relax and unwind. Team lunches have to be organised and planned in advance, otherwise staff will often work through their lunch break.

  • Team sports

Organising an office football team, softball team or even playing a game of rounders in the park in the summer can create friendships and build a feeling of trust in the team. Alternatively, combining a meal out with an activity like bowling can also be a fun way of getting the office to socialise.

  • Celebrate personal events

Celebrating birthdays, engagements or baby announcements is a great excuse to get the office together for cake and drinks.

  • Provide a dedicated social newsfeed

Sharing office social events on social media not only encourages your staff to make friends but it also promotes your company at the same time – a win-win!

  • Spend time with your staff outside the office

Friendship starts at the top. You can still remain the authority, but simultaneously take a real interest in your staff by getting to know them and their interests.

  • Hold meetings outside the office

Having meetings in a more informal location from time to time can help to relax staff and encourage better communication. Try coffee shops, or in good weather a table outside can stimulate some new ideas in work discussions.

  • Enable staff feedback

Ask for feedback from your staff for ideas for social activities. Appoint a dedicated social organiser. Listen to what your staff want to do, rather than enforce ideas on them.

We spend more time at work than we do at home, so it makes sense to make friends at work for a happier life. Not only this, but friends at work understand your work world in a way that friends and family outside work can’t.

Creating a friendly office environment should be viewed as a prerequisite for SMEs rather than a distant outcome. Employee engagement is vital to increase productivity and grow your business, but even at the most basic level, it costs more to replace your staff than to keep and develop them. The research reminds you that even in tough times you need to keep staff motivation and engagement high on your list of priorities as an SME.