Your Coworkers Are Not Your Friends…But Maybe They Should Be

Even though workplace friendships can be difficult, research proves they're good for our health, happiness, and productivity

One of our all-time best performing stories is “Your Coworkers Are Not Your Friends,” a cautionary tale reminding professionals that the primary purpose of relationships in a work environment is business, not social. But research suggests that not making friends at work can do more harm than good.

 

(Image: iStock/PeopleImages)

 

Thrive Global recently covered the issue with a post called “Why Everybody Needs a Work Spouse,” citing research that has proven a link between office friendships and improved employee morale and resilience.

Harvard Business Review agreed in its own post, “Having Work Friends Can Be Tricky, But It’s Worth It,” noting that:

“people who have a ‘best friend at work’ are not only more likely to be happier and healthier, they are also seven times as likely to be engaged in their job. What’s more, employees who report having friends at work have higher levels of productivity, retention, and job satisfaction than those who don’t.”

HBR took it a step farther, exploring the correlation between feeling lonely and experiencing work exhaustion or burnout. And because loneliness increases your risk of stroke or heart disease, and it decreases your longevity—even more so than obesity or smoking—being friends with your coworkers can actually be good for your health.

And new research shows that friendships are good not just for the worker, but for the work. A report out of Ohio State University that analyzed 26 different studies found that teams composed of friends performed better at some tasks, especially when the goal was maximizing output.

“Working with friends is not just something that makes us feel good—it can actually produce better results,” said Robert Lount, co-author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, in a press release. “When employees are having fun together, it may have long-term benefits for productivity.”