Have you heard the classic George Gershwin tune, The Babbitt and the Bromide? It’s about two men who met each other on an avenue one day and held a conversation in their own peculiar way. Here’s how the chit chat begins:
How are you?
How’s the folks?
Chances are, this is how most conversations go around the office. Or it could be a lot worse than that: People might talk about the weather! A study conducted by Research Gate found that a very small percentage of individuals identify people at work as their friends. We don’t want to go for a coffee with a colleague on the weekend nor do we want to hang out with them after work, and we certainly don’t want to go on vacations with someone from the office.
That said, if this is the most you communicate to somebody in a given day, then it might be time to reconsider how you engage with your comrades in arms at the workplace. Many people fail to establish strong connections with co-workers, mainly because our water cooler chats are superficial and we typically avoid forming real friendships at work. However, research has found that having a so-called best friend at work can make us happier, healthier, more productive and better engaged.
Don’t believe us? We have compiled a list of benefits that come with having a best friend at work.
1. Greater job satisfaction
You spend about one-third of your day at the office, so it makes sense that you see your colleagues more than your friends and family. By having a co-worker you can confide in every day, you can feel greater job satisfaction at the workplace since you are no longer alone and left to your thoughts and frustrations. When you applied for the position, you didn’t intend to make a colleague your best friend, but if it turned out that he or she is a great ally at the office, then why not?
One more thing: If you are more satisfied with your position, you are more likely to stay. Therefore, it might be in a company’s best interest in job retention if it fostered an environment of amicability.
2. Reduced workplace stress
Let’s be honest: Your work can eat away at your overall health – mentally or physically – whether it is your day-to-day tasks or the workplace environment. You can mitigate the stress by having a colleague who is also a good friend because you can air your grievances to them, plus you can relish in the fact that at least one other person in your life shares your pain of being employed at your workplace. A strong interpersonal relationship at work can only breed positive emotions.
3. Increased trust around the office
By surrounding yourself with people at the office and maintaining friendly relationships, you are perceived to be more trustworthy. It makes sense when you think about it. Indeed, since people are getting to know you, they are aware of your positive attributes, including your impeccable work ethic and your dedication to your job.
Moreover, there is that social proofing element too. Others want to mirror the actions of others to participate in comparable behaviours in particular situations.
4. Better productivity levels
Sure, by having a best friend at work, you may be a bit more social than people who confine themselves to their cubicles for the entire shift. Believe it or not, research has found that workers who have a close friend at the office can boost their productivity and experience an increase in performance levels.
Perhaps this has to do with feeling better at work or more energised with your daily tasks. Socialising can stimulate your little grey cells, so maybe that is another explanation for your efforts to be the best support functions clerk.
5. Higher engagement
Presenteeism is an epidemic in workplaces around the world. This is when there are live bodies at the office, but they are not engaged in the work they are doing because of poor health, exhaustion or disdain. Overall, you’re left feeling disengaged all day every day, and this hurts your productivity levels and contributes to your diminishing mental health.
6. Reignited career passion
When you graduated from college and entered your industry, you were confident and optimistic about the future. Years later, you’re feeling disinterested and apathetic. Why? How did this happen? You can always perform an autopsy at another time, but maybe you need to be a bit more social at the office.
By having an interpersonal relationship with somebody you spend one-third of your day with, you can potentially reignite the passion for your career.
7. Improved communication skills
In the classic 1941 film, The Maltese Falcon, Sydney Greenstreet’s character tells Humphrey Bogart’s iconic private detective, Sam Spade: ‘I distrust a close-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking’s something you can’t do judiciously unless you keep in practice.’
Who do you think would be a better communicator? Al in accounting, who keeps his mouth shut seven out of the eight hours that make up a working day? Or Margaret in marketing, who has regular chats with her colleagues and clients? Even if you only one person you talk to, moving your mouth can enhance your communicative abilities, which is a soft skill that many companies say is sorely lacking in the modern workplace.
8. Better collaboration throughout the workplace
Lack of collaboration is a problem in a lot of workplaces. The reasons vary, from individuals fearful that their ideas are not the right ones to a paucity of communication. Whatever the case may be, having more people on friendly terms can facilitate a collaborative environment. There is more of an open ambience where everyone feels like they can offer any idea that pops up in their minds.
Yay for teamwork!
9. Decreased number of errors
A NASA study (PDF) found that tired crews with experience working together made fewer mistakes under pressure than energetic crews who had never done missions together. Ultimately, having a friend at work can do wonders for your work and lead to you making fewer errors on a project.
Maybe it’s an instance where your friendliness is contagious, or you and your buddy simply understand each other.
10. Well-established support system
Everyone needs a support system for their professional and personal lives. This is crucial for success since having somebody you can count on can ensure you do not do something irrational or stupid that will jeopardise your job. It doesn’t matter if it’s one person or a group of co-workers.
11. Boosted health
Did you know that a recent study found that having few or no close friends raised the risk of cardiovascular diseases? Even if you avoided the thought of having a friend or two around the office, you need to engage with somebody for your health.
Also, as previously noted, friendships can be great for your mental health, too.
Over the years, studies have executed some excellent polling on the concept of why we need best friends at work. All the data point to incredible outcomes – for both the employer and employee.
For companies, there are higher profits and fewer safety incidents. For workers, they are more likely to take risks, innovate, progress within the firm and less likely to report a negative experience.
Indeed, socialisation, friendships and the feeling of belonging are critical components to happiness – at work or at home.
What do you think is the top benefit of having friends at work? Join the conversation in the comments section below!