At Toronto-based FreshBooks, employees are encouraged to go on blind dates. Well, not actual dates so much as staged one-on-ones or group meet-up between employees at the cloud accounting software company that might not otherwise get to work with one-another.
“Anyone can put their hand up and say ‘yes I’d like to go on a blind date,’ ” explains Mike McDerment, CEO of the company. He says its key for the workplace culture, especially given that they have 250 employees. So far half of his staff have participated. “It’s an opportunity to meet people from other parts of the building which has a knock-on effect of making the place feel smaller.”
Overall, McDerment is a strong adherent of out-of-office socializing. He points out while it helps strengthen ties between employees it also benefits the business itself. For instance, sending two hiring managers – one who hires software developers and one who works with support staff – out on a blind date, is apt to get them swapping techniques surrounding how they do their jobs.
“They wouldn’t necessarily work together but here they are comparing notes in a bit of a different environment,” he adds.
And there are studies to corroborate McDerment’s enthusiasm for getting employees to hang out. A poll by Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50 per cent. And those who have a best bud in the workplace are seven times more likely to be full engaged in the work they’re doing.
It can even help with retention, says Leah Fochuk, consulting services manager, at Calgary-based HR consultant firm Salopek and Associates.
“Employees are going to be more loyal because they are more likely to stay when they have good friends at work,” she says. “It actually helps employees avoid getting burnt out – they can take breaks, converse with colleagues about things other than work, or they may feel appreciated for the social contributions they make to the team.”
As it turns out, it can even help boost your pay. According to Fortune magazine: “people who initiate office friendships, pick up slack for their co-workers, and organize workplace social activities are 40% more likely to get a promotion in the subsequent two years.”
While the colleague-gathering-geared Happy Hour is apt to feel like the go-to, co-workers are finding interesting new ways to gather and blow off some steam.
“I was on a team of all women and we had a ‘dirty Book Club’ – where we read dirty books and talked about them on our lunch hour,” says Fochuk.
McDerment has noticed all sorts of non-alcohol-geared gatherings popping up amongst FreshBook employees.
“We have board game nights that just kind of sprung up and sports nights where people go to the park and play soccer… open invitation stuff happening all the time,” he says. “We have a lot of non-alcoholic driven activities and opportunities for people to keep their brains ticking and have fun whether they’re having a drink or not.”