The Importance of Workplace Friendships

3 coworkers standing over balcony laughing and holding coffee mugs

According to a new study on “Global Work Connectivity,” over half of employees today feel lonely at work all or most of the time, and they also report a desire for more social interaction in the workplace. The study, which surveyed over 2,000 employees and managers across 10 different countries, also found that this sense of isolation and lack of engagement at work intensifies with remote positions and for men or younger workers. Professionals who spend a large portion of their time communicating with coworkers using technology (as opposed to face-to-face interactions) also reported feeling lonely all or most of the time.

But what are the consequences of feeling isolated or lonely at your job, and why does it matter that we should make friends at work? Is it really that big of a deal if you don’t get social with your colleagues? For most positions and employees, the answer is “yes,” and here’s why. Having friends at work can greatly affect your:

Productivity level

The study found that 60% of workers would be more inclined to stay with their employer if they had more friends at work. Instead, they’re not feeling engaged at their current position, looking for or open to finding other jobs. There’s little doubt that this kind of dissatisfaction would have a negative effect on workload or productivity levels. When you’re feeling isolated or unhappy at work because of lack of genuine or positive connections with others, you’re more likely to feel despondent, causing the quality of your work and your energy level to plummet.

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Company culture

Great company culture has nothing to do with ping pong tables, casual Fridays, or bring-your-dog to work days. Healthy company culture is first and foremost about people and the way they interact, relate, communicate, and collaborate. Organizations that have a systemic breakdown of the company culture almost always can attribute this to toxic or nonexistent relationships among coworkers, managers, and company leaders.

Job satisfaction levels

When you’re happy with the people you interact with every day – let’s face it, sometimes we spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our own family or friends – that happiness translates to an overall improved sense of job satisfaction. Having friends at work who support you enriches your experience and gives you a sense of belonging and positivity that can make for a great work environment.

Efficiency

Good relationships at work often mean you work better and faster. When you have people around you who lower your stress levels, give you honest and constructive feedback, help you accomplish your goals, and, in general, just brighten your day and make you excited to come to work each morning, you’re that much more likely to be motivated to accomplish your goals.

Ability to innovate

It’s a cliché, but two heads really are better than one. Having friends at work who you can bounce ideas off of and who will champion your creativity or innovations will give you the confidence and the outside perspective you need to do great things.

Support system

No job or department or organization is without its challenges. When you have a solid support system of workplace friends around you, the inevitable difficulties or roadblocks that you’ll face will seem much more manageable.

Communication skills

Having good relationships with your colleagues means you’re more likely to communicate with them on a regular basis, which, in turn, leads to better business outcomes. Open, honest, positive, and constructive communication is the foundation of good collaboration, and when you have a solid friendship as your foundation, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish together.

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So now that you understand how important workplace friends are, how do you go about forming these key relationships if you don’t already have them? What if you’re new to the job and don’t know many people? How do you reach out and start to build some meaningful workplace friendships?

  • Don’t eat lunch alone

This is an easy one to implement, whether you’re on day 1 of our job, or whether you’ve been there for 10 years. You should never feel awkward about asking a colleague to lunch or for a coffee break – it’s a natural way to make a connection and get to know someone on a more personal level, yet still in a professional setting so they won’t be caught off guard.

  • Volunteer

Be proactive about volunteering when opportunities come up, and fight your urge to isolate yourself within your own workload or team. You may feel a bit out of your comfort zone at first, but putting yourself out there in professional yet social situations is a great way to enjoy positive and more personal interactions with your colleagues.

  • Offer to help

Do you see a coworker struggling with a task? Are they drowning in work and up against a tight deadline? Take notice of the people around you and what they’re coping with, and where you can, offer your help or support. This could mean helping them to complete the project on time and taking on some of the work, or even something as small as a quick gesture like bringing them a coffee or offering a few words of support or concern. Seeing that you truly care about their struggles will open the door for a potential friendship, and, at the very least, certainly establishes a sense of goodwill between the two of you.

  • Initiate

Don’t wait for someone to ask you to lunch or to introduce themselves. Reach out, and be proactive about developing those healthy work relationships. Make yourself open and available, and try to project an approachable attitude that invites interaction, conversation, and friendship.

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