Work Friends: A ‘No-No’ or a ‘Go’?

work friends enjoying a cup of coffee

Work takes about a third of our time every day. On average, employees spend 8 hours and 45 minutes on work and work-related activities. Statistically, we spend more time with our colleagues than family members. With this much time spent at work, it is inevitable that work friendships will grow along the way.  But is this a good thing?

In short, yes. According to a Gallup study, having work friends can double the employee engagement rate. Research shows that female employees who strongly agree that they have a best friend at work have a higher employee engagement rate (63%) compared with the women who say they do not have a best friend at work (29%). This supports the fact that companies, where good work relationships thrive provide a supportive culture, have high productivity and lower turnover rate. Trust, inclusion, engagement, and belongingness are some of the aspects employees are looking for in a workplace. It is evident employees stick around for reasons other than just a paycheck.

Benefits of Having Work Friends

a group of work friends

For some, just the thought of the word “work” is enough for you to recoil back to bed. But friends can be a good motivation to actually go to work. Work can be fun and engaging because of work friends. Here are just a few benefits of having work friends:

  • Work friends can be a good support system. Workloads and deadlines can be stressful. Having someone whom you can vent to and share frustrations with can make a world of difference.
  • Creative ideas abound when people are having fun. The best ideas are born when people are having fun. This is one reason why team building and icebreakers are essential in cultivating workplace creativity.
  • Work can be a primary source for social interaction. Schedules can be so hectic. It can be difficult to meet friends outside of work. This is why work lunches are fun and Friday Karaoke Nights are something to look forward to.
  • Work friendships can develop into deeper, life-long bonds. Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King’s 40-year friendship started back in the 80s when they first met at a Baltimore TV station as colleagues. Perhaps you can have that too.

Things to Remember When Interacting with Colleagues

There may be many benefits to forming office friendships but beware that there can be drawbacks as well.

  1. Decide early on whether you are willing to hold two roles at the same time. For some, switching between work friend and colleague can be stressful. If this is something that does not appeal to you, you can choose to keep your work friendship at an acquaintance level.
  2. Interact with everyone in the office. While it is true that you will prefer to be with certain people at work, getting stuck with the same group of people in the workplace is tantamount to creating high school cliques. This attitude is counter-productive, restrictive, and discourages openness and diversity.
  3. Know your priorities. Before you were work friends, you were colleagues first. When you are faced with a situation where you have to choose, work should come first. Also, remember that too much fun may impact productivity.
  4. Be prepared to lose some friendships down the road. It is inevitable that disagreements will arise. Remember to stay respectful and genial if this happens.
  5. Do not divulge too much information. When crises arise or when ambition gets in the picture, friends may disclose information that may place you under unfavorable light.

When dealing with friends, whether at work or outside work, you must determine the level of trust and engagement you wish to bestow on a person. It is up to you to decide how close you wish to be involved with your colleagues.

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Imee Rabang is a blogger/writer and bilingual poet from Manila, Philippines. She is an advocate of Philippine culture and supports causes that promote language and national identity. She juggles her time between work, parenthood, and community outreach programs. She also dabbles in photography and graphic arts in her free time.

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