Why friendships at work?
Generations address work friendships in different ways; it also depends on the type of work, i.e. you may well find more camaraderie and friends on the factory floor than in a boardroom. The furniture ecommerce company, Furniture@Work, recently carried out a survey and asked 2,000 office workers about the way they handle social events and friendships in the workplace. 76% said they had a close friend at work; 36% said that their best friend works in the same office; 43% said they socialised with their work friends outside of office hours regularly.
Today’s younger generation of 18-21 year olds, Generation Z, actually put more value on workplace friends with 87% saying they have close friends at work, which is 11% higher than the national average, and they socialise outside of the workplace more frequently too. But they don’t find it easy making friends within the workplace, with social anxieties being a principal reason. As many as 29% of workers believe their HR department could do more to encourage workers to become friends and retain staff, such as more open plan office environments and company social events.
People make friends at work for a variety of reasons; indeed, 43% of those surveyed admitted that by making friends with management, it was more likely their career progression would be better. Workers place a lot of faith in friendships with many covering for friends; 29% said they’d complete a friend’s work for them and 12% would take the blame for a mistake that they didn’t make.
Benefits of workplace friendships
Furniture@Work’s study found that 6 out of 10 people agreed that their workplace friendships made them happy; 69% felt they had better mental health due to their friendships which contributed to better job satisfaction, motivation, improved productivity and a healthier outlook in terms of their career. So, why is it important to have friends at work?
- Higher motivation and productivity – work can be stressful, complicated at times and even boring, all of which leads to a lack of motivation which ultimately affects productivity. If you’re not working at your best, mistakes start to appear, your work suffers and you may even consider leaving the company. Having a friend in the workplace to chat to, to lean on and who allows you to vent your frustration at times can relieve tension, boredom and make you smile.
- Job satisfaction – we spend around 40 hours a week in the workplace. Most people see their co-workers more than they see their families and partners. Imagine what your workplace would be like if you didn’t have a friend at work; and a friendly face helps the day to pass more quickly rather than being isolated. Your job is no longer a chore with a friend at work; being able to share within the workplace turns a list of somewhat monotonous tasks into job worth doing, a job you care about doing well. Research has shown that those who have friends at work feel more connected to the company, and have an increase in job satisfaction by as much as 50%!
- An understanding support network – yes, we spend time talking to our families and partners about our work, but many workers feel guilty doing this not only because it seems you’re bringing your work home with you, but also impacts quality time away from the office. Do families and partners really understand your job and working environment? Probably not. A friend in the workplace can help enormously if you’re going through a difficult period. They understand the company; they understand your working environment; they understand your job; they know the people you’re working with. Not only are you able to share your troubles with them, your work friend will no doubt have suggestions as to how to solve any issues and accomplish your goals. No more bending your family member or partner’s ear!
- Mental health and wellbeing – The Centre for Mental Health estimates that mental health problems at work cost businesses as much as £34.9 billion, principally down to poor productivity and lack of attendance. Add in the job satisfaction factor leading to talent leaving the company and there are recruitment costs to replace the worker. Our jobs can be stressful, which can be made all the more worse if you feel isolated from co-workers. Everyone wants to feel needed, nurtured, that they are respected and belong. If you think that you are not included, treated without respect or taken for granted, it will have a significant impact on your mental health and wellbeing. A YouGov poll found that 3 out of 10 millennials often feel lonely at work. If you’re not happy at work, as well as your motivation and productivity levels being affected, so is your health. Niels Eek, a clinical psychologist and co-founder of the mental wellbeing and self-development platform, Remente, said: “To assess if a work relationship could develop into a ‘real life’ friendship, think about what you gain from, and give in, your current friendships. Reflect on how you communicate and socialise with your friends, then consider if this is something you have, or would actually want, from your co-workers”. Many people in the workplace would say yes.
Businesses today are much more willing to embrace friendships at work, if not encourage them. They understand the positive impact a friend in the workplace can have not only on the business, but also on their staff. Tess Cooper, a people consultant and founder of Collaborative Future, commented: “Many of us do not have the ability or desire to compartmentalise. We go through huge personal journeys during our working life and they don’t suddenly disappear when we get to work, so having strong friendships in the workplace can be a huge support and help individuals to cope with what life throws at them.”
Research conducted by Gallup in 2019 revealed that 63% of women strongly agree that with a best friend at work, they are more than twice as likely to be engaged. A big part of our lives is spent in the workplace; in fact, we spend more time with our work colleagues than with our friends and families outside of the office. Why wouldn’t we build strong friendships with those that we share a large part of our time? As businesses and workers embrace friendships in the workplace, feeling happier, healthier, more motivated and productive for it, having a friend at work is probably one of the best things you can have.