You may be familiar with the workplace myth, “We’re not at work to make friends.” In other words, the office is a place for an employee to be an efficient worker, not a place for socializing or forming relationships. It’s the same tired concept, that professional and personal are like oil and vinegar.
In reality, the traditionalists who believe this couldn’t be more wrong. Making friends at work is one of the most important things we’ll ever do. When you work a minimum of eight hours per day, five days a week, it’s safe to say a majority of your waking time is spent at work. As a result, it makes sense to want relationships with your coworkers.
However, a huge number of employees see work as a transactional experience. Although productive conversations take place in the workplace, meaningful bonds are not as plentiful. There are many reasons for this: shortened job tenures, social media (and the ease of messaging friends outside of work), and the blur between work and personal lives.
I have been associated with companies that completely restrict relationships internally and externally with others in the same field of employment. This practice is less prevalent today. When I began my career, a prominent company discouraged any friendships outside of normal work hours. Their practices mandated employees not to participate in sports together outside of work teams, not engage in personal relationships with coworkers, and at times, even recommended not sharing lunch together, especially outside of the office.
Today, work culture is the complete opposite. Companies place a huge priority on team-building activities and exercises in order to create an environment capable of fostering friendships in the workplace. A perfect example of this is e-commerce giant Zappos, whose core values focus on embracing change, creating fun, pursuing growth, and building a positive environment, as well as a family spirit.
Being friends with someone in the workplace is more than having fun with each other. It’s not about having someone to watch YouTube videos, gossip about recent events, or take extended lunches with. It doesn’t even mean you’re required to share your deepest, darkest secrets with your colleague.
Workplace friendships are about establishing a common sense of purpose, and that all-for-one, one-for-all mentality amongst employees. It promotes a group loyalty that can result in a shared commitment towards common work.
I have developed friendships in the workplace that transcended both the job and the company. I have carried great friendships from the first company I worked for to my employment today.
Aside from increased job satisfaction and performance, you might be asking yourself what the benefits of being friends with your coworkers are. Studies have placed more emphasis on the benefits such relationships have for companies, and not enough on the benefits for the employees themselves. Friendship at work can lead to three very important things:
In the workplace, there is no such thing as independence. Even if you have always considered yourself a strong and independent person, a time will eventually come where you feel the need to ask for a favor or help from a coworker.
This is when the need to be friends with your coworkers is most prominent.
Friends don’t mind lending a hand, even when they have their own hands full. In fact, they are even willing to set their own work aside (on the condition it’s not urgent) to help you make a presentation for your next meeting, or stay after-hours to help you make a report.
Although coworkers will still lend a hand—whether or not you are friends with them—when your boss tells them to, friends actually want to do it without being told, and will put their best foot forward to ensure you don’t lose out. In short, workplace friends will undoubtedly have your back when the going gets tough.
As mentioned previously, we spend more time at work than we do anywhere else. Having good friends at work can increase happiness, because it instills a sense of belonging or appreciation. Having someone to crack jokes or share light-hearted stories with while working can also have a tremendous impact on reducing stress.
Work can be a little (or a lot) crazy, either because of the work itself or the people around you. When craziness happens, the only thing that will keep you from tearing your hair out from the roots is having someone to run to, who can empathize and understand.
When you make friends at work, you create a vital support network. Rooting for each other on promotions, consoling each other during rough circumstances, giving advice, or simply providing empathy and support for personal situations—these do wonders for individuals in the workplace.