With employee engagement declining and more people experiencing job-related stress, friendship could make the difference between contentment at work and burnout. Studies suggest 20 percent of our friends come from our workplace, making it the second most likely source of friendship. Research has also found strong social connections at the office can boost efficiency and make employees more passionate about their work and less likely to resign.
A study led by Christine M. Riordan, published in the “Journal of Business Psychology” in the '90s, found the mere prospect for friendship increases employee job satisfaction and organisational success. Riordan, the President of Adelphi University, found camaraderie to be a key ingredient to happiness at work for both sexes. More recently, in a “Harvard Business Review” blog entitled "We All Need Friends At Work," Riordan, who served as provost at the University of Kentucky (UK) before, highlighted a lot of evidence suggesting office friendships can act as a remedy to dissatisfaction and detachment at work. These "good old-fashioned friendships,” as she referred to them, can have great and far-ranging benefits in the workplace.
4 Good Reasons to Make Friends at Work
1- On average we spend 220 days per year at work, so we see more of our colleagues than our partners, children and loved ones.
2- Our contemporaries often have many things in common with us: same age range, education, priorities like balancing work and family, pursuing a post-graduate degree and so on. However, they also have different experiences and interests so working friendships can be enriching.
3- The world of work can be ruthless sometimes. Public reprimands, a rejected pay raise and a bad atmosphere can make you glad you have a friend in the office, a shoulder to cry on during those terrible days.
4- As time goes by our circle of friends tends not to be as wide as it was during our student days because we don't have the time as we settle down with families. Work is a great place to forge links with new people easily.
5 Warnings to Help Maintain Office Friendships
1- Be vigilant. At the beginning of a relationship avoid telling your colleagues your whole life history and all your secrets until you trust them completely. This measure will stop you from being betrayed or from getting in too deep in case you don't want to stay friends.
2- Think about establishing a few boundaries to protect your bubble. Introduce colleagues to your close friends and family gradually and don’t always mix your work friends with your other buddies. Each of you must respect the other's territory.
3- Friendship reacts badly to ambition. The relationship can be put under strain if you're both competing for a promotion, or if one of you becomes the other's superior. It’s not easy asking for the accounts or having to report back to a friend who becomes your boss.
4- Having one best buddy at the office can mean you become isolated from others. You might not even notice other colleagues, who don't want to infringe on your friendship. Plus your long-standing friends may feel excluded when you start talking about the new friend.
5- What brought you together can also drive you apart. Sometimes a close friendship falls apart after one leaves the company and you're disappointed when you realise you had very little in common outside work.