It seems like common sense – that if you have friends at work you are more likely to enjoy your job. But did you know that having friends at work makes it more likely that you make better decisions, are more engaged in your work, more committed, and productive?

Friends at Work Matter

Making friends at work is more important than we give credit. Workplace friendships are one of the strongest predictors of productivity, according to research. I know this from experience, the header photo is a picture of my friends at work, Eric Spencer and Ruby Vesely. We wouldn’t be as successful in business, or in life, but for the friendship, we have cultivated between us.

I find that few managers recognize the importance of workplace friendships, according to psychologist Ron Friedman in his book The Best Place To Work.

“It’s because it’s easy to confuse the concept of friends at the office with the notion of fooling around,” Friedman explains. “Close friendships are perceived as a source of gossip, favouritism, and distraction. But that’s exactly the wrong way to think about what happens when we’re working with friends.”

It turns out that meaningful connections are vital to our psychological and physical well-being. In fact, it’s impossible to perform at our best unless we feel connected to others.

As I said, common sense. Except it is an uncommon behaviour and experience, and the pandemic hasn’t helped the situation. I was reading the 2022 Global Emotions report from Gallup and this paragraph leapt out at me:

“The world is also struggling from a silent pandemic — loneliness. Gallup finds that 330 million adults go at least two weeks without talking to a single friend or family member.
And just because some people have friends, it doesn’t mean they have good friends. One fifth of all adults do not have a single person they can count on for help”.

But making friends at work isn’t always easy. I hear this in my coaching practice in subtle, and not so subtle, ways. We also hear it loud and clear in our research for our new book You, Me, We. Why we all need a friend at work (and how to show up as one!) where 20% of the more than 750 leaders who completed our Ally Mindset profile reported having NO friends at work – not one. (Feel free to follow this link and complete your own profile and contribute to our research).

Connected or Disconnected?

This is a heartbreaking statistic. We spend most of our waking days at work (whether in the office or working from our bedroom or kitchen table). If we don’t feel a sense of belonging to our team, or a connection with our colleagues that’s a lonely place to be.

As humans, we are wired to connect, and in a world where technology would seem to allow us to be more connected, the reality is that many of us feel disconnected. When we have friends at work we are all better together – and our research shows that creativity, innovation, informed risk-taking, collaboration, intent to stay – you name it, things are simply better.

What are we to do?

What have been your experiences with making friends at work? Is it encouraged within the organization? How are you approaching this in the current hybrid world? We would love to hear from you.

  • About the Author
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Morag Barrett helps leaders achieve outstanding results through the power of their professional relationships. She is an in-demand keynote speaker, executive coach, leadership expert, and bestselling author of three books: Cultivate: The Power of  Winning Relationships, The Future-Proof Workplace, and You, Me, We: Why we all need a friend at work (and how to show up as one!)

Morag excels at helping leaders and organizations see the gaps in their development and discover new ways to move past them. A pragmatic ideator, she finds unique solutions to problems (usually through the power of connection). Her greatest joy lies in giving leaders the tools, encouragement, and resources they need to become the best authentic versions of themselves they can be. 

She also…

  • Has helped more than 15,000 leaders from 20 countries on 4 continents improve the effectiveness of their leaders and teams.
  • Is the proud mother of three 6ft tall sons who can thoroughly beat her in basketball, but don’t stand a chance in Scrabble.
  • Has been featured by, Forbes, and The American Management Association among others.
  • Spent three weeks at sea with a group of Estonian sailors.
  • Prefers gin to scotch, despite having a Scottish name (it means “great” …and she is!).
  • Is a member of the 100 Coaches organization formed by Marshall Goldsmith.
  • Has more than 50 unicorn themed items at home (none of which she has bought for herself!)