We all have crappy days at work—it’s just part of life! Maybe you’re dealing with a too-heavy workload, an interpersonal conflict, or a boss who seems to be cracking down way too much. Whatever the case, it can be tough to cope with the pressures of your professional life, especially when they’re added to the typical home life challenges. If you don’t have a good support system in place, you may end up carrying the burden until it feels overwhelming.
But why not listen to the experts and try making friends at work? You may just find it’s what you need to help make life a better place!
The Benefits of Workplace Friendships
In his book, The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, Ron Perlman, PhD., brought up a number of ways that having workplace friendships could contribute to a happier, more productive environment.
First, it was discovered that friendships helped to increase the performance of all tasks. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Pennsylvania asked students to identify classmates they had a “close interpersonal relationship” with, then set these teams to complete decision-making and model-building tasks. In both the collaborative thinking and repetitive manual labor tests, the friends outperformed people who were just “acquaintances” or fellow students.
Why? because friends:
- Communicated better during the project
- Showed greater commitment at the project’s onset
- Offered each other positive encouragement all throughout
- Evaluated each other’s ideas more critically
- Offered more feedback when their partners strayed from the course
People who were more “acquaintances” tended to work alone, and only engaged each other when it proved necessary. They were less prone to seek out help, less likely to point out their coworkers’ mistakes, and lacked connection. This sort of “insulation” from the other members of their team harmed their productivity.
But productivity isn’t the only thing to think about at your work. You also have to think about quality of life and workplace happiness, right?
Experts agree that friendships can drastically improve the quality of life:
- Increase your sense of purpose
- Make you feel like you belong
- Reduce stress and boost happiness
- Improve your sense of self-worth and value
- Encourage you to be healthy and change or avoid unhealthy choices
- Help you cope with traumas, turmoil, or hardships
All of these things combine to promote a better, happier environment for you. The fact that it’s a work environment means you will have a better quality of life when on the job.
Friendships make you more loyal to your company. Employees with work friendships tend to stay on at companies for longer. Those physical ties to a person rather than a company are what keeps people engaged and interested in working at the same place.
Friendships can also help to motivate you to work harder. You want to work harder so you don’t let your friends down, and the social pressure to be better can help to motivate you far more than any incentive or threat from your boss.
Symptoms of a Friendless Workplace
While the benefits of having friends at work are clear, the side effects of a friendless work environment are also equally visible. “Process loss” is the psychological term that explains the symptoms:
- Wasted energy
- Loss of productivity
- Breakdowns in collaborations
- Unresolved tensions
- Turf wars
- Interpersonal drama
Ultimately, a lack of friendships at work can lead to serious, potentially disastrous consequences.
Friends: The Solution to a Happier Job
In the end, friendships at work are what make your workplace environment happier, more productive, and better overall. Friends motivate you to work hard, increase your productivity, engage you emotionally and socially, and increase your feelings of well-being. If you want to have a better work life, it’s time to get out there and make friends!
What is a “workplace friend”? How are they different from the rest of your co-workers or acquaintances?
Simple: it’s all about what you discuss.
When you talk about work-related matters, you’re colleagues, co-workers, or acquaintances. When you start talking about non-work-related topics—personal topics like your past, your families, your hobbies, likes and dislikes, etc.—that’s when you start getting into the realm of “friend”.
The more you talk about these topics, the closer you become. Self-disclosure is at the core of not just marriages and sexual relationships, but ALL interpersonal relationships. The more you share of yourselves, the more you become friends. And, as we’ve seen, having those friends at work can make life a whole lot better!