In a bustling world, where the tasks of one day run into the next and the next, work becomes a place to get the job done and leave.
Couple this with the extended hours that flood into evenings and weekends, and we all need to de-stress and blow off steam during the weekend.
That’s where our ‘non-work’ friends come into the picture. Keeping friendships outside of work permits us to take an often-needed mental break to rest from the office.
But what about having real/good friends at work?
Jobs represent productivity and often relationships do not fit this paradigm. Current research indicates that, as employees, we favor this productivity over the niceties of interaction.
There are several reasons for this preference:
- People stay at the same organisation for a much shorter time nowadays.
- Social media provides a source of connection with longtime friends from high school or college, but this doesn’t happen with people at work.
- The bleed of work into personal life begs for distinction.
- According to Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor at Stanford, employees are increasingly disengaged and distrustful of their employers, organizations have moved to become less like communities and adopt more arms-length and distant relationships.
So logically, it makes sense to keep work at the office and forge relationships beyond its walls.
However, valuable benefits are lost with this work-friend separation.
Value of Friends at Work
Studies conclude that 70 percent of employees report having friends at work as the most crucial element to a happy work life.
A good friend at work leads to a person being 1.2 times more likely to claim their job is an opportunity to do what they are best at every day.
These types of positive results speak boldly to forging friendships, even with shortened job tenures. Also, relationships can extend past working as colleagues and lead to a lifetime of connection.
Friendships via social media do not carry positive impact into the office. But, a friend having your back in the office promotes individual health in ways social media cannot reach.
Having a workplace friend, people perceive that their opinions are more highly considered, greater than 27 percent higher than those without friendships at work. These befriended individuals benefit from 137 percent more personal development support, 1.4 times more high-five praise in a week and 1.3 times more feedback about their progress in the last six months.
Experts studying workplace interactions often look at salaries, feedback, mentorship opportunities and a variety of other factors when determining what makes workers thrive.
The bottom line: Relationships trump meaningful work, leisure time and positive emotions, when it comes to achieving a thriving life. In fact, having friends who we see daily at work, increases our happiness as much as an extra $100,000 per year would.
Fifty-eight percent of men and 74 percent of women would turn down a higher paying opportunity if it included not getting along with coworkers.
Forging Relationships at Work
With all the data illustrating the value of friendships at work, how do you navigate the choppy waters?
After all, relationship building in the workplace proves challenging for adults and can make use feel exposed/vulnerable. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- According to Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, “Vulnerability is the key to emotional bonding, without which relationships tend to feel superficial and meaningless.” Use opportunities to rely on other people, and have them rely on you to achieve this. For example, relying on one another during projects and activities/games during corporate offsites, can help to foster bonding and friendships.
- Share meaningful conversations and not just small talk. A number of research studies have shown that going beyond the comfort of small talk and engaging in a bit of self disclosure around non-workplace topics, can break down emotional and social barriers in as little as 45 minutes.
- Avoid oversharing. Experts recommend avoiding topics relating to money, sexual history even romantic relationships (at first), illness or health concerns, and work performance reports and reviews. Also, start with simple lunches or commuting, before diving into longer outside-of-work engagements.
- Relationship building fails if not viewed as a long-term process. Katherine Crowley, author of “Working for You Is Killing Me,” reminds us that a time investment over the long haul is the building block of relationships. Forcing or rushing the relationship dooms the process.
- No gossip. Gossip creates a negative work environment and forms an unhealthy foundation for any relationship. “You may be finding rapport with some people, but you’re alienating everyone else,” says Jane Sunley, founder and CEO of the HR consultancy Purple Cubed.