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The State Of Workplace Connection In 2024: How Sociable Is Your Team?

Do you have someone at work you can rely on through thick and thin? Someone you can moan to about the latest company policy or celebrate with after smashing your team goals?

This is the essence of a positive workplace connection—a mutually beneficial, supportive friendship between two or more people. These relationships may exist solely within the confines of work—at team lunches, Slack channels, breakrooms, and Zoom calls. But it's not uncommon for work friendships to blossom beyond the office. The American Perspectives Survey names the workplace as the top source of making new friends ahead of school, local neighborhoods, places of worship, or existing social networks. 

Nevertheless, working relationships can be complex, with different teams, ranks, ages, and genders adding to the dynamic. To better understand workplace connections in the wild, Nectar recently surveyed 800 full-time United States employees. Here's the latest analysis of the relationships between friends, acquaintances, and colleagues in the business world, complete with tips on building a more connected workplace.

1. 76.13% Of Employees Have A Close Friend At Work

It's heartwarming that over three-quarters of employees in our survey confirm they already have at least one strong friendship in the workforce. And there's minimal variation between genders—76.72% of female workers have a close friend, along with 75.46% of males.

Interestingly, the drive or ability to forge friendships changes with age. In our survey, 

  • 81.82% of workers aged 35 to 44 have a close friendship with a work colleague.

  • 66.22% of workers aged over 54 enjoy the same bond.

There's also a significant correlation between someone's education, income, and workplace relationships. The data below suggests that those with higher education and earning power are more likely to have a strong sense of connection with coworkers. 

  • 86.25% of postgraduates have a close friend at work, compared to 63.54% of people with a vocational and technical college education.

  • 86.03% of people earning $75,000 to $99,999, and 85% earning over $100k have a close friend at work, compared with 66.27% of people earning in the $25,000 to $49,999 bracket.

How Do You Define A “Close” Friendship? 

Betty McHale, Senior HR Professional at the City of Fruitland Park, explains her positive experience of making close friends at work:

"I've had many work friends/partners/team members/coworkers who have saved my sanity. Studies show everyone needs a best friend at work. I think a person you can trust to talk to about work-related issues, bounce ideas off, or serve as a mentor/friend is a wonderful thing and promotes good mental health." 

Georgi Tsanev, Marketing Coordinator at Blue Lynx Employment, agrees: 

"We often spend more time with our colleagues than with our families, so for me, it makes sense to have emotional support in the workplace. It's really necessary from a mental health point of view." 

Research from the University of Kansas boils close friendships down to time spent together. Associate Professor of Communication Studies Jeffrey Hall found that it takes: 

  • 50 hours to move from acquaintance to casual friend. 

  • 90 hours from casual friend to regular friend.

  • 200 hours before a regular friend becomes a close friend.

The average worker spends 81,396 hours at work over a lifetime, so it makes sense that so many tight relationships occur in the work environment. But with Monster reporting that 96% of people are looking for a new job this year, it could take 340 hours or more to start building close friendships from scratch.

2. 85.38% Of Employees Talk With Someone Outside Of Their Department Daily Or Weekly

Limiting workplace connections to those working within your team is unnecessary. Our survey reveals that: 

  • 42.25% chat with someone outside of their team daily.

  • 43.13% speak weekly with colleagues in adjacent departments.

Example: Sales manager Joe works closely with the marketing team to develop case studies and sales-focused content. He also connects with the customer success team to ensure new customers are cared for. Making friends on both these teams helps Joe do his job better, and he also appreciates the camaraderie, which brightens his day.

Interdepartmental Relationships Prevent Workplace Silos 

Yet building bridges between teams isn’t always straightforward. EConsultancy research highlights 40% of employees feel colleagues in other departments don’t support them and even have their own agendas. Without solid interdepartmental relationships, companies increase the risk of teams becoming siloed

These silo walls create an "us and them" mentality which can lead to internal competition and political tensions. And this is a risk for more than 1 in 20 of our survey respondents because:

  • 5.15% never talk to someone outside of their team.

  • 1.13% only have the chance for annual cross-departmental bonding.

3. 69.5% Of Employees Would Be Happier If They Had Deeper Connections With Work Colleagues 

When employees work alongside their friends, studies find they’re more committed to their job and enjoy better communication within the team. These feelings of social connection lower the incidence of anxiety and depression and boost output and overall satisfaction. 

Christopher Viscuso, Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, reflects, "You spend most of your life at work, and we're human beings. Naturally, we are going to socialize and build connections (some deep, some shallow) with coworkers."

 More than two-thirds of employees in Nectar’s survey confirm they want to go beyond shallow interactions with their coworkers. 73.88% of male workers and 65.56% of females crave more meaningful bonds with work colleagues. But there are striking differences when we examine the link between age and a desire for these deep connections. While 80.95% of 18-24 year olds would be happier with increased connection, only 47.30% of >54 year olds feel the same way.

Similarly, higher earners with university or postgraduate qualifications seek out these significant relationships more than people in lower salary brackets or those who didn’t attend higher education. 

  • 85% of postgraduates and 71.47% of university graduates want meaningful workplace relationships compared to 57.22% of employees with a high school diploma.

  • 82.69% of people earning $100k+ would be happier engaging in deep and meaningful coworker friendships compared to only 55.03% of people earning between $25,000 to $49,999.

4. From 1:1s To Company-Wide Meetings: Frequency Varies

Next, we wanted to understand how often survey respondents had access to common meeting types like 1:1s, department meetings, and company-wide meetings. The experience varied with each meeting type. For example, while 1:1s and department meetings typically happen once a week, company-wide meetings usually occur monthly.

36.63% Of Employees Have Weekly 1:1s With Their Manager

“The best managers recognize that 1:1s are not an add-on to their role—they are foundational to it,” writes Steven G. Rogelberg, author of "The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance.”

Grace He, People and Culture Director at, elaborates on how one-to-one meetings allow leaders to actively listen to their employees, build personal connections, and brainstorm challenges. She told us:

One way to foster deeper connections is creating a space in which coworkers feel seen, heard, and respected, instead of simply being tasked with a list of projects. Listening carefully to what others say allows for better rapport-building conversations where important ideas can be exchanged without interruption or assumption of judgment. 
It also invites open dialogue so deeper issues may be addressed as part of problem-solving initiatives. Active listening encourages a deeper connection among coworkers and builds trust and respect within professional teams.”

One-on-ones are also ideal for discussing career goals and ambitions and potentially progressing into a mentoring relationship. Social Science Researcher Samantha Richmond recalls:

"I once had a boss, at the start of my career, who saw my potential and started sharing his knowledge and skills with me. Before I knew it, I started assisting him with his work. The result? A very strong bond of trust within our workspace; he knew he had someone he trusted that he could rely on, which in turn started allowing him to let go of some work and spend more time with his family. As for me, professional growth and development." 

Unfortunately, not all managers dedicate the same time and energy to their direct reports, leading to a vast spread in how regularly they hold one-on-ones, if at all. Our Nectar research reveals that 36.63% of workers have weekly one-on-ones and 23.75% of workers have monthly one-on-ones.

Most Team Meetings Happen Weekly

Regular team meetings are instrumental in setting the tone for workplace relationships and creating a culture of collaboration. They allow team members to share ideas, business success, challenges, and news while feeling more connected and part of something bigger than their role.

Antreas Koutis, Administrative Manager at Financer, recounts:

“At my previous job, we made it a point to highlight each other's successes during team meetings. We would take turns sharing accomplishments from the past week, no matter how small they were. This created a positive and supportive atmosphere that encouraged everyone to keep striving towards their goals. 
Whenever someone was struggling with a project, we would try to find something positive to say about their progress. This helped to boost morale and create a sense of camaraderie. By celebrating each other's successes and finding the good in challenging situations, we could build deeper, more meaningful relationships with our colleagues.”

In Nectar’s survey, more than half of teams meet at least once a week, but 22.38% meet four times a year or less, if at all.

31.5% Of Employees Have Monthly Company-Wide Meetings 

Company all-hands meetings can bring everyone together and build a culture of trust and transparency. They provide updates on new projects or initiatives, share successes from across the business and create a platform for employees to raise questions, voice opinions, or offer suggestions. 

Our research reveals that, most companies have monthly (31.50%) or quarterly (26.38%) company-wide meetings.

Are Women Missing Out On Important Meetings?

As we dug deeper into meeting statistics, one trend kept popping up. Female respondents were much more likely never to have these meetings than their male counterparts. In most categories, women were 2x more likely never to have access to a meeting. That means that many women are missing out on the alignment opportunities we've discussed regarding workplace meetings. As companies consider what to do with these statistics, it's essential to ensure that employees of all genders have equal access to meetings that will improve their experience in the workplace.

5. 77.63% Consider Workplace Connection Important Or Very Important In Achieving A Great Company Culture 

Organizations strive to build a strong company culture, not least because 93.5% of employees would stay at a company for five years if the culture were great. But what does this look like? Business professors Robert E. Quinn and Kim Cameron designed a four-part framework for assessing culture, which includes: 

  • Adhocracy culture: Outward focus on dynamism, innovation, and business growth 

  • Clan culture: Inward focus on team-building and collaboration, with a supportive culture and tight-knit friendships

  • Hierarchy culture: Inward focus on processes, operations, and predictability

  • Market culture: Outward focus, responding to industry strengths and market stability

Of these four quadrants, workplace connections fall firmly within the “Clan” category of their company culture model. Our Nectar survey results show that employees resonate with this area:  

  • 37.25% of respondents consider connections "very important" to company culture.

  • 40.38% selected that it was “important.”

There’s a reasonably even split between male and female employees who chose these categories. However, people earning $100k+ are 20% more likely to choose these two categories than those earning between $25,000 and $49,999.

5 Tips To Build Community And Camaraderie In The Workplace  

It's crystal clear that workplace connections matter. So, how can organizations encourage these relationships to develop over time? Try these five methods:

1. Create A Buddy System

Onboarding can be a lonely time. Support employees in finding their feet by matching them with an existing colleague. This "buddy" can orientate the new starter, introduce them to the team, and act as a go-to for anything they need support with.

Scott Adams, Director of Employee Experience, breaks down how this works for new joiners at Microsoft: 

As the new joiner becomes cemented in company culture, they may work with their buddy for a few months before supporting new joiners themselves.

“Onboarding will give you ample opportunity to learn about Microsoft and connect with your team. You will have an onboarding buddy and the opportunity to start the process of finding one or more mentors. You will enter an environment where everyone lives our purpose to enable everyone and every organization on the planet to achieve more. You will find people that want you to succeed and who will help you to be successful. You will learn and be encouraged to learn.” 

2. Implement Cohort-Based Learning 

Social learning is a concept popularized by psychologist Albert Bandura, who recognized that learning is highly effective in collaborative environments. When learners observe others, mimic each other, and discuss points of interest, this knowledge-sharing boosts organizational performance. 

Andrea J Miller, CEO of the LeadWell Company, recommends using this cohort-based learning style to establish strong working relationships while accelerating training. She told us:

“In these environments, people choose to come together around content that matters to them. They discuss the information, share their ideas, and hopefully master new skills together. This has several advantages. First, it can be borderless. It can also make teams more innovative and collaborative because they’re coming together around shared ideas. Cohort-based learning fosters social interaction, connection, and a sense of belonging to a community. Research shows that this can lead to increased satisfaction, greater engagement, and retention.”

Get started by arranging small workshops or training sessions focused on specific topics, skills, or projects. Group participants into pairs and invite them to collaborate and form relationships.

3. Invest In Team-Building 

Strong relationships between coworkers result in teams working more efficiently. Your teams will comprise better problem solvers and are more likely to be accountable and seek guidance from each other. 

A study by Jessica Methot of Rutgers University examined the development of multiplex relationships within companies, concluding that "having a lot of coworkers who eventually developed into friends significantly increased employees' performance, as judged by their supervisor." 

But creating a high-performing team is no small feat, especially in companies with a high workforce turnover. Invest in regular team bonding activities, and use icebreakers to break barriers and cultivate workplace friendships. Brittney Simpson, HR Operations Manager at Walker Miller Energy Services, recommends:

“One tip for encouraging deeper connections with colleagues is to provide opportunities for social interaction outside of work-related activities. This can include social events, team-building activities, or volunteer opportunities. By creating opportunities for employees to interact in a more informal setting, you can help foster a sense of community and camaraderie among team members.”

4. Encourage Employees To Build Their Own Support Networks 

Not all employees will get along, and managers and HR teams can only do so much to help people find their crew. Your best bet? Encourage employees to build their support networks organically, which will vary depending on their individual needs and personalities. 

Meaningful connections in an employee's network might include: 

  • Team members: Daily interactions between colleagues working on the same projects and workload.

  • Manager: Confidential support and career resources from a supervisor.

  • Mentors: Career development advice from experienced professionals.

  • Onboarding buddy: A warm welcome from an established employee who knows the ropes.

  • Adjacent department colleagues: Relationships with coworkers outside of the team for social reasons or to extend your professional network.  

  • Business partners: Contact with third-party vendors, leading to strong relationships and a better understanding of their services.

  • ERG members: Employee resource groups that open the door to employees with a shared interest. For example, you might belong to a group focused on LGBTQ+ inclusion or mental health initiatives.

5. Celebrate Success

Positive work relationships bring out the most human of interactions: praise. When our colleagues succeed, we want to offer genuine congratulations. Doing so publicly is one of the best ways to recognize and reward employees for their efforts. 

Nectar's employee recognition survey discovered these critical links between celebrating success and productivity. 

  • 83.6% of employees feel that recognition drives their motivation to succeed at work 

  • 77.9% of employees would be more productive if their employer recognized them more frequently  

  • 81.9% agree that recognition for contributions improves employee engagement 

At Nectar, we’ve designed our Recognition feature to make it easy to send congratulatory shoutouts to your teammates in three quick steps. Write your personal praise message, attach Nectar points, and link a company value to the shoutout. Everyone sees the praise, and the recipient can redeem their points for various rewards.

Enable Positive Connections With Nectar  

Workplace connections fuel employee morale, reduce turnover, and build a thriving community, whether remote, in-office, or hybrid work environment.

Nectar works with companies across the globe to promote praise and recognition as the heart of human connections. Ready to strengthen relationships within individual teams or across your entire organization? Book a demo of our software, and we'll show you how. Enable Positive Connections With Nectar  

Workplace connections fuel employee morale, reduce turnover, and build a thriving community, whether remote, in-office, or hybrid work environment.

Nectar works with companies across the globe to promote praise and recognition as the heart of human connections. Ready to strengthen relationships within individual teams or across your entire organization? Book a demo of our software, and we'll show you how. 

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