Considering how much time we spend on the job, it’s kind of amazing that becoming friends with the people we work with is still somewhat controversial. Some feel that it is best to fully separate our personal and professional lives, but more people are starting to intentionally blur these lines in a lot of ways, including becoming close friends with people at the office. If you enjoy what you do, (or even if you don’t), it can feel unnatural to turn away from potential on-site friendships. And, why should you anyway? Here are some reasons why you actually need friends at work, and how those friendships can support you both personally and professionally.
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1. It’s a strange and unique world.
Workplaces truly have their own culture. There are social norms at play, a rich and complex history, and language/vocabulary that others wouldn’t understand – it’s a unique environment. And, you’re there – a lot. It’s nice to be able to connect with friends who understand your work world in a way that family and old friends just never can, because they’re not there. Feeling like you have a friend, or two, or five, who know a lot about where you spend your days is really nice. It helps that part of your life to feel more real somehow, and that helps you do a better job.
We might not need research to know that friends are a good thing, and that they make us happy. But, there are two features at play here that show we might benefit from a reminder. First, employee engagement is lower than ever. And, second, there is just such a huge emphasis on productivity these days. Everyone is trying to cram more into their schedules than is humanly possible, and employers are piling on the productivity pressure in a big way. Research that reminds us that work friends make us happier, and therefore more engaged and productive, couldn’t come at a better time.
3. Where else are you going to meet them?
You’re at work all the time; where else are you going to meet friends? Talking about eroding work-life separation is such a trend right now partially because folks are working so much that their life has to happen at work. There is no other time left in the day. So, since we know that having friends is important to our overall happiness, and since we’re at work so much of the time, colleagues have become our best social option.
4. Work will feel more like home – and that will help you professionally.
If you’re happy at work, you won’t mind staying late as much. If your lunch break is actually a little bit fun and enjoyable, you’ll be better able to get back to work feeling refreshed and ready to go when it’s time. If you have friends at work, good friends, being there can start to feel a little more like being at home, and that makes it a more pleasant experience all around. This will bring out the best in you professionally. You’ll give your job more time, more energy, and you’ll be more positive, if you have friendships at the office that you enjoy. Simultaneously, you’ll contribute to your pals’ professional growth as well, and the energy of the work environment in general.
5. It helps your company shine.
When the office is a fun and happy place, it shows. You can feel it right away when you enter the building. If roars of laughter echo through the halls and employees walk around with smiles on their faces, any potential new hire will be excited to learn more about the company. Organizations should view workplace friendships as an integral part of their company’s culture, and work to promote and value them. It will appeal to future hires, and help current employees feel like they want to stay with the company for a long time.
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