Friendship is an unparalleled force: It can forge ties in ways other methods of relationship-building — like networking, negotiations and strategic partnerships — can’t.
Workplace friendships put a “pep in the step” of employees. A 2014 survey found that the more friends a person has at work, the more likely they are to say say they love their employer and less likely to be willing to accept a job elsewhere. Employees with friends at work are not only happier and more productive. Gallup says organizations where the majority of employees have work friendships, “could realize 36% fewer safety incidents, 7% more engaged customers and 12% higher profit.”
Socializing and relationships are the antidotes to stress, making them a much-needed salve for the office environment. Plus, no one can better sympathize with your stressful work situation than the friend sitting at the desk next to you. An in-office buddy is a built-in support system and someone to gab with between completing tasks. Gallup’s 2008 Happiness-Stress Index study found that the more humans socialize the more stress is lessened and the happier they are.
Careers benefit from in-office friendships. Work friends give each other informal feedback and act as a support network for professional moves. When these bonds transcend office hierarchy, lower-level employees can learn the behind-the-scenes functions of a more upper-level staffer, gaining insights into management’s expectations and values which can help them position themselves for advancement.
There’s a downside to workplace friendships. See “Why You Need to Choose Your Workplace Friends and Allies Wisely”
Companies don’t have to cross their fingers and hope employees form close ties — they take an active role in cultivating them. Providing staff with communication software like Slack, an online chatroom for offices, sparks both professional and informal conversation. And throwing the occasional office party or a weekly lunch potluck encourages socialization. Nonprofit Bright Pink, recognized for high employee happiness, hosts a monthly “Wellness Hour” for activities such as yoga or rock climbing. The Nerdery, a digital strategy consultancy, holds Fun Friday with beer and food each week — and it’s repeatedly been named one of Minnesota Business’s 100 Best Places to Work For. But low-key activities can have positive results too. Heading to a park on a nice day for routine meetings might lift spirits and spur collegial conversations between workers.
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Maintaining a level of professionalism in the office is paramount but doesn’t preclude workplace friendships. Employees get by better with a little help from their friends—and employers reap the benefits from those close bonds.
A version of this article was originally published on wforce.org.