October Question of the Month: Do you have a good friend at work?
Over our lifetimes, it is estimated that we spend at least a third of our time at work. That's an average of over 90,000 hours! Needless to say, your job has a huge impact on your quality of life and wellbeing. Having someone at work to talk to can make the day more enjoyable, but how does it really affect your engagement and productivity in the long run? So we asked our network whether they had a good friend at work and what they thought about its impact.
The main results show that 73.5% of the respondents have a good friend at work. 64.6% of the respondents considered that this affected their engagement and productivity at work very positively or positively while only 12.5% believed that it affects negatively.
So what is it about having friends at work that makes for a positive work environment?
A 2010 study by Jim Harter and Tom Rath found that having good friends at work meant that people are seven times more likely to be engaged at work. No doubt having a laugh in between tasks brightens your day and makes a potentially dull task more interesting.
Researchers at MIT conducted a study where workers wore high-tech badges all day that monitored their movements around the building and their conversations. It found that even small increases in social cohesiveness led to increased productivity gains, just by allowing some personal connections during the day.
As we spend so much time at work with a wide variety of people, it would be a shame to not make the most of the personal friendships that could abound. Even if colleagues are not working in the same departments, having some people that you know you can meet up with socially can make the day seem more exciting.
It can be quite easy in an office to sit at your computer or desk and spend the entire day not interacting with anyone aside from an obligatory 'Good morning, how are you?' Having friends in the office ensures that this never happens and makes you feel more positive about coming to work rather than just to be alone or with minimal small talk. Indeed, the increasing numbers of remote freelancers now working from home often complain that they feel lonely and miss the interactions with even the most frustrating individuals in the office.
Having friends for a bit of a chat in between tasks makes the whole office more relaxing as an environment (even if just to complain about workload!) You feel more happy to complete the tasks if you know there can be some respite in between.
A recent Gallup survey of over 80,000 employees found that those who had a best friend at work were 43% more likely to receive positive praise during the day and 37% more likely to be encouraged to develop. If employees feel valued by their friends in the workplace then they are more likely to work harder for the company, feeling like one big team striving for the same goal.
If you have good friends at work, you are also more likely to feel comfortable to ask them for help or advice, especially if they have been at the company longer than you. This means that there is higher internal productivity as colleagues help each other and pass on their knowledge and expertise to others without even being asked.
If having good friends at work makes people happier, then they are more likely to stay in their jobs. Happy employees make a happy and productive workforce and job satisfaction is key for retention. Employees may even stay longer in the job than they initially thought if they have friends are encouraged by a good company culture to interact with them during the day. Not having to re-train new employees means that businesses save money and productivity time if experienced professionals stay in their jobs.
But what about the 12.5% that thought having a good friend affected them negatively? Did they believe that separation was needed between personal life and colleagues in the office? A recent study of American workers found on 6% were close enough with a colleague to go on holiday with them compared to almost 50% in India. Perhaps they felt that having close friendships at work may in fact be stressful if conflict arises in the office. Did they think they spent too much time talking or having a laugh with friends that they never finished their work on time? After all, it is ingrained into us all at school that we should not talk to our friends in class and focus on learning and studying – does the same not apply to the workplace?
Although this may have been what concerned these respondents about their productivity when having a friend at work, we still believe that having someone you can talk to who is a good friend both at work and outside work, makes those 90,000 hours of your life far more enjoyable. This comes with the added bonus for employers of staff retention and wellbeing, both of which are important for company productivity.