Keeping Hybrid Employees Engaged

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To this day, some of my closest friends are people I met at various jobs over the course of my career. Before the pandemic, every day I looked forward to seeing friends at work, going out to lunch, getting coffee, being in meetings together, and having impromptu hallway conversations. These friendships transformed what work meant to me — it wasn’t just work, it was life.
In sociology, the “proximity principle” describes the tendency for people to form interpersonal relationships with those who are nearby. We often become friends with people we encounter regularly, energizing and bringing joy to each other and sharing a smile, an inside joke, or drinks after work.
It turns out these friendships really matter for employee engagement. A now-famous Gallup survey found that employees who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged at their job. For years prior to the pandemic, companies benefited from the proximity principle. Many leaders further invested in office layouts, micro kitchens, and team events to encourage even more shared moments and were rewarded with a workforce that was highly engaged.