Smiling colleagues sitting together around a table.

The Importance Of Having Friends At Work

Humans are social by nature. They crave the warmth of true and genuine association regardless of where they are. Whether in the neighborhood, at school, or even at work, people often find themselves creating friendship bonds with other people.

Friendship is an important type of relationship, even at work. Below are some of the most important benefits of having friends at work.

What Is Workplace Friendship? 

Many work executives expect employees to leave their personal lives at the doorpost when they show up every day. This means employees are expected to show up to work fully and professionally without any hint of their lives outside of a professional setting. Sometimes, this means not fostering a friendship that crosses the line between cordiality and communism. But is this even possible?

The average person will spend more than 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime. This is the equivalent of more than ten years of a person’s life. With this much time dedicated in a setting with other people, it is highly unlikely that an employee will not befriend other employees at work.

People spend so much time at work, which makes it the most likely place they will discover and develop friendships. 

Workplace friendship is one of the three types of relationships at work, with the other two being co-workers and team members. It involves cultivating a genuine friendship with co-workers, a friendship that is deeply seated in need for companionship. 

Workplace friendship is a relationship between two or more coworkers with a shared interest, value, affinity, and communal norms. Unlike other workplace relationships, workplace friendships are informal, voluntary, and a form of true commitment or interpersonal exchange that is not driven toward the organization’s growth. Essentially, workplace friendships are based on common personal interests.

Why Organizations Do Not Promote Workplace Friendship

Although organizations promote the ‘people are assets’ concept, years ago, the thought of fostering close and unprofessional bonds with a co-worker might have been unacceptable. This is because employees’ productivity in an organization is usually measured with metrics such as their ability to focus on work and keep their private lives separate from their professional one. Workplace friendship was considered nothing more than a distraction that is detrimental to the growth of an organization.

Many organizations consider friendships in workplaces a relationship with too much socialization. By default, this is considered a problem because too much socialization can result in distractions. 

Employees may spend more time socializing with their work friends that they may start to sack on their duties. To many executives, too much socializing may impair productivity.

Socialization in itself is not a problem in work environments. Employees are expected to socialize with one another to foster a team spirit that will lead to more productivity, operational efficiency, and, hence, a more successful organization. However, executives used to draw the line on a relationship that has surpassed cordiality and now toes the line of a more personal bond.

Executives also think that tension can arise from work friends disagreeing. All relationships will, at one point or the other, suffer a conflict, and friendships can quickly turn bitter. When this happens, how easily will the employees move on? Sour relationships breed bias and a lack of team spirit and usually result in the affected parties not being able to go around their duties as they normally do. To many executives, this is a risk to the organization that can be avoided if friendship is taken out of the equation.

More problematic is the formation of cliques in the workplace. When employees form tight-knit friendships, some employees may feel excluded.

Another reason executives frown on work friendships is a personal conflict of interest that may arise from manager-subordinate friendships. These kinds of friendships can lead to accusations of favoritism. This is mostly because friendship introduces a form of bias and preferential treatment. Managers may be accused of paying more attention to their friends or not disciplining them enough when they make a mistake.

Additionally, workplace friends may discuss sensitive topics that the organization may not want employees to discuss among themselves. For instance, some organizations do not encourage employees to discuss their salary or the amount they may be earning. However, a study showed that about 68% of employees who have formed a friendship with employees discuss their salary with their friends.

The same study showed that about 64% of employees with friends discuss conflicts concerning other co-workers. This creates spaces for negativity to spread as discussing conflicts creates bias due to the sharing of ill grievances about other employees. This reinforces negative feelings about the work environment, thereby paving the way for lack of communication, the creation of gossip, and reduced cooperation among members of the organization.

While these risks cannot be fully ignored, it is impossible to ask employees not to foster friendship among themselves. Doing this will not only create a negative environment where employees will share nothing but rigid and forced friendships but also create friction in employees’ abilities to work together.

More importantly, studies have shown that workplace friendships undoubtedly benefit employees and their organizations.

Workplace colleagues holding each other’s hands.
Workplace Friendships create engaged employees that are happy to work together.

The Importance Of Workplace Friendship

It might sound strange to know that a simple friendship between employees makes all the difference in the organization regardless of the organizational structure. Whether it is a remote, traditional/office, or hybrid workplace, friendships between co-workers offer numerous benefits. Some of these benefits include:

1. Improved Engagement

Although many executives consider workplace friendship a distraction that may reduce employee engagement and productivity, it is actually the other way around. Fostering genuine friendships at work usually leads employees to be more engaged through constant motivation.

Employees with a friend at work are more likely to be eager to show up every day. It gives employees something to look forward to instead of the bleak loneliness in the monotonous lifestyle of work environments that do not allow the fostering of friendships. This was proven by a Gallup report that showed that employees with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged at their jobs, produce higher quality work, and have better well-being.

2. Better Well-being

Speaking of well-being, friendships at work are like magic potions, an elixir of life that can help employees perform better healthwise. Employee health is important in any organization, which makes this benefit of workplace friendship a big deal. Workplace stress is a problem that many employees face. In fact, a survey showed that 57% of U.S. workers feel stressed out at work.

Workers face stress in their day-to-day life. This stress is usually more pronounced due to the monotonous nature of jobs. Stress leads to workplace burnout which is not only physically but also mentally tiring. 

Workplace friendships can help employees create a stress-free work environment. They do this by alleviating the isolation that often comes as a package with stress. Employees stressing about challenges at work, such as a failing project, can turn to their friends for help and advice. This feeling of communism not only helps create employees who are better equipped to take on work challenges but also those who are less stressed about their work.

Stressed employees are more likely to be less engaged and unproductive at work. This makes workplace friendship extremely important as workers are less likely to be stressed and more likely to be productive.

3. Increased Job Satisfaction

The quality of friendships an employee shares at work is intertwined with that employee’s job satisfaction. Many employees report that when they create friendships at their place of work, their job is more fun, enjoyable, and satisfying. In fact, a report showed that employee satisfaction increases by almost 50% when a worker develops a close friendship on the job.

Employees with friends at work are more satisfied at their jobs. This can be compared to the satisfaction and happiness you once felt about attending school because you knew you would hang out with your best friend during or after classes. While the workplace is primarily for work and not hanging out, knowing you have a friend within the organization increases your sense of belongingness. This enables you to derive more satisfaction from the organization than you will without a friend.

4. Improves The Business

Although many work executives believe that work friendship is a problem because familiarity breeds contempt, this is the opposite of what healthy work friendships result in. 

Work friends help employees to become a better version of themselves. This positive change not only reflects on the employee as an individual but also on the company they work for as a whole.

Work employees are more productive, engaged, and satisfied. They are less stressed, more proactive, and always ready to put in the day’s work. Employees with work friends are more creative and can easily hold innovative discussions to help their team and organization thrive. All these factors play huge roles in the growth of a company. 

Workplace friendship also builds healthy competition. Friends at work often encourage each other to reach deadlines, produce higher-quality work, and even offer constructive criticism when they make mistakes. This improves the quality of the employees’ work, thereby creating an organization that is more efficient and productive.

5. Less Turnover

Have you ever been pulled out of school as a child? Or have you ever had reason to leave a school where you already have lots of friends to a new place you no longer know? If you have, then you will undoubtedly be familiar with the heartbreak that comes with having to leave your friends.

This is the same for workplace friendships. Employees with work friends are less likely to leave an organization. This is because they are scared to leave their friends and friendship bonds behind. They are scared to leave an environment where they are accepted for one where they barely know anyone and may have to experience loneliness.

Having friends at work offers employees a sense of work-life balance that they believe they won’t be able to get anywhere else. It enables them to enjoy a sense of social well-being, which they consider an asset they may not enjoy if they choose to resign and work at a different company. 

In a time where employee retention has spiked as employees are going in search of organizations that align with their personal and professional needs, work friendship has enabled organizations to enjoy low employee turnover.

6. Fosters Inclusive Leadership

Inclusive leadership is a type of leadership that embraces diversity. It is an authentic form of leadership where discrimination or bias is absent against employees due to gender, culture, race, belief, or religion.

Although manager-subordinate friendships are frowned upon, it is often a great way to introduce inclusive leadership into an organization. Since inclusive leadership involves making every employee feel valued, the first step might be to become friends with employees. Friendship offers employees psychological safety, which in turn makes them feel like they are valued in the organization.

7. Improves Teamwork

Building workplace friendships is a great way to understand your team members’ weaknesses and strengths. By discovering these strengths and limitations, teams understand cohesion better. This enables them to solve problems better, thereby increasing overall work quality for the entire company.

Being friends with your teammates is also a great way to build trust. During their friendship, team members will understand each other’s shortcomings and how to deal with them. This makes it easier to dispel potential conflicts, helping the team be stronger than other teams without friendships.

Man sitting and holding his face while colleagues point their fingers at him.
Fostering friendship with colleagues builds unity and eliminates discrimination.

Why Workplace Friendship Is Becoming Popular

“Work BFF” and “work besties” are two of the numerous workplace friendship terms that have grown popular. Workplace friendships have started becoming celebrated and accepted as normality in any organization. Executives and organizations now embrace and come to terms with the fact that it is almost impossible to abolish friendships in the workplace. If your organization still tries to stifle friendships, it might be a sign to look for a different job.

More than ever, employees are creating friendships in workplaces like they normally would in any setting. But what exactly is causing this increase in close and trusting friendships in the workplace?

One major reason this is happening is loneliness.

Research shows that about 72% of workers worldwide experience loneliness monthly.  This research also shows that 55% of employees experience loneliness weekly.

Another research also says young workers are twice as likely to feel lonely. This figure accounts for workers aged between 18 years and 24 years old. On the other hand, 39% of older employees are likely to feel lonely at work.

But why is loneliness suddenly a huge problem in organizations?

The increase in worker loneliness can be attributed to the growth of technology. Although technology brings innovative solutions that make life easier, it may also significantly contribute to some problems we face. One such problem is the creation of an opportunity for remote workers.

Remote working means working outside a traditional office. It involves doing office duties outside the central office. Although remote workers work from anywhere they please, they mostly work from home. While this means employees can be comfortable and work on their terms, they also have to see less of each other.

Workers used to traditional offices are now made to work from home. This results in loneliness as many of these employees now only communicate with themselves virtually.

Another reason why work friendship is becoming popular is the after-effect of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic was traumatizing for everyone for various reasons. However, it also put the concept of socializing at the forefront of everyone’s mind seeing that the pandemic brought months of lockdown. 

Now, as employees return to their workspaces, they have grown to appreciate socializing with the people they work with. They have also found that being friends with their co-workers helps them move past the effects of the traumatic events following the coronavirus outbreak.

Making Friendship Work At Work

As workplace friendship continues to become popular, it is not difficult to see the benefits of these genuine friendship connections. Globally, organizations are harnessing the benefits of a friendly environment and creating a culture of friendliness.

Encouraging friendship is a great way to encourage a positive workplace culture. Are you looking for other ways to build a positive workplace culture? Check out our tips for building a positive workplace culture in your remote or traditional offices.

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