In today's fast-paced work environment, making friends at work is often overlooked, as individuals focus on meeting goals and deadlines. However, studies have shown that having friends in the workplace can lead to increased job satisfaction, better mental health, and even higher levels of productivity.

The Value of Friendship

"Authentic friendships deepen employees' sense of ownership for their work and enable employees to be more effective and sustainable, regardless of where or when they work."

~ Alok Patek and Stephanie Plowman, Gallup

Friendship in our personal lives has always been considered crucial for many reasons. 

  • Friends provide us with social support, which is essential for our mental and emotional health. They can help us cope with stress, deal with difficult emotions, and feel loved and accepted.

  • Friends challenge us to be better people, and they help us to learn and grow. They can also provide us with new perspectives and insights, which can help us to become more well-rounded individuals.

  • Friends give us a sense of belonging and purpose. They help us to feel connected to something larger than ourselves, and they make our lives more meaningful.

  • Friends make our lives more fun and enjoyable. They provide us with companionship, laughter, and support, which can make our lives more fulfilling.

In the workplace, though, friendship isn’t always considered important. In fact, managers often expect employees to “leave their personal life at the door.” This attitude suggests that workplace friendships are a distraction, at best.  

However, Gallup polls consistently highlight the benefits of workplace friendships not only for the workers but also for the employer: They note that “...having a best friend at work is strongly linked to business outcomes, including profitability, safety, inventory control and retention. Having a best friend at work has become even more important since the pandemic, as workplaces were disrupted and more employees work remotely. 

The Unique Value of Workplace Friendships

Having friends at work isn’t just about sharing lunch or cracking jokes. Workplace friendships can be a support system that helps you navigate through challenging times, brainstorm brilliant ideas, and keep you engaged in your work.

5 Key Benefits of Having Friends at Work:

  1. Increased Engagement.  Employees with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. This means that they are more likely to be involved in their work, motivated to do their best, and committed to their organization.

  2. Improved Health. An article published by Time points out that work friends are crucial for your health. They can provide social support, which can help to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.

  3. Better Communication. Friends at work can help you to stay informed about what is going on, which is especially valuable for today's increasingly remote workforce. They can also help you to communicate more effectively with your colleagues, which can lead to better teamwork and collaboration.

  4. Reduced Stress. Friends at work can provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. They can also offer advice and support, which can help you to cope with difficult situations.

  5. Increased Job Satisfaction. Positive work relationships contribute to your overall well-being, which can lead to increased job satisfaction. When you are happy at work, you are more likely to be productive and motivated.

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Impact on Team Dynamics and Productivity

Workplace friendships can also have a positive impact on the team and organization as a whole. Having friends at work can help:

  • Build better relationships with customers and internal partners. This can lead to better communication, collaboration, and understanding, which can ultimately lead to increased sales, improved customer satisfaction, and a more efficient workplace.

  • Stay motivated and productive. Friends can also help brainstorm new ideas, solve problems, and delegate tasks. This can lead to increased productivity and efficiency, which can save time and money.

  • Create a more positive and supportive work environment. This can lead to fewer accidents and reliability concerns, as employees are more likely to speak up if they see something that is unsafe or could cause problems.

  • Encourage more creative and innovative thinking. Friends can offer new perspectives and insights and help share ideas with others.

  • Make work enjoyable, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and productivity.

5 ways to build frendships at work:

It’s clear that there are many benefits to having friendships at work, but developing such relationships can be challenging. 

  1. Be Yourself.  People can tell when you're being fake, so it's important to be yourself from the start. This will help you connect with people on a genuine level.

  2. Be Open to Meeting New People. Strike up conversations with people you don't know. You never know who you might become friends with.

  3. Be Interested in Others. Ask questions about people's lives and get to know them on a personal level. This will show that you're interested in building a friendship, not just a professional relationship.

  4. Be Supportive. Be there for your friends when they need you. This could mean offering emotional support, helping them with a work project, or just being someone to listen to them vent.

  5. Be Respectful. Even if you don't become best friends with everyone you work with, it's important to be respectful of everyone. This means treating everyone with kindness and courtesy, regardless of their position or title. 

How Employers Can Encourage Friendships at Work

Employee friendships can be beneficial not only personally, but also to the organization. Managers can help facilitate the development of friendships. 

Provide Opportunities for Employees to Socialize

This could include hosting company-wide events, such as happy hours or potluck lunches. It could also include providing space for employees to relax and socialize, such as a break room or game room.

Encourage Employees to Get to Know Each Other on a Personal Level

This could be done through team-building exercises, informal coffee chats, or simply by creating a culture where it's okay to talk about personal matters. Be supportive of employee-led initiatives. If employees want to start a book club, sports team, or other social group, be supportive of their efforts.

Encourage Employees to Take Breaks

When employees take breaks, they're more likely to socialize with their colleagues.

Create a Positive Work Environment

When employees feel happy and valued at work, they're more likely to form friendships with their colleagues.

The Complexities of Friendships at Work

Notwithstanding the benefits of work friendships, there are complexities that need to be considered. One of the biggest is the potential for power differentials. This is especially true when there is a significant difference in job titles or levels of seniority. For example, if you're friends with your boss, it can be difficult to maintain a professional relationship if there is ever a conflict or disagreement.

Another potential problem with power differentials is that they can lead to favoritism. If you're friends with your boss, they may be more likely to give you preferential treatment, which can lead to resentment from other employees.

Another complexity of friendships at work is the potential for conflict. This is especially true if you and your friend have different work styles or personalities. For example, if you're a detail-oriented person and your friend is more of a big-picture thinker, you may find yourself clashing over projects or assignments.

Workplace friendships are not just about socializing; they are about building solid relationships that lead to professional growth, personal happiness, and a healthier work environment. Building friendships takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. 

When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.

Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you.  Visit or call 866-648-8326.

The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
following issues:

• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Grief
• Interpersonal conflicts

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The Increasing Importance of a Best Friend at Work, Alok Patel & Stephanie Plowman, Gallup

The Power of Work Friends, Jon Clifton, Harvard Business Review

Why You Should Make Friends at Work, Lynda Gratton, MITSloan Management Review

Why Work Friends Are Crucial for Your Health, Jamie Ducharme, Time