The Correlation Between Your Career Satisfaction & Work Friendships
After college, I quickly realized I had to put a lot more effort into making friends. Now that I wasn’t constantly surrounded by people my age, and nine-to-five shifts replaced back-to-back classes, I found myself spending most of my time in an office, with co-workers from various backgrounds and with different interests.
Navigating friendships at work can feel really tricky, but it turns out those relationships can be important for your wellbeing. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace reports 70 percent of employees think having friends at work is the most crucial component to a happy working life.
Making friends at work is beneficial for your overall happiness and has the potential to make you seven times more engaged in your role. According to the Harvard Business Review, having friends at work can increase your productivity, job satisfaction, and decrease your likelihood of searching for a position elsewhere. Beyond that, work friendships provide a support system and prevent feelings of loneliness. With around 60 percent of tech industry survey respondents reporting they have a close friend at work, career BFFs are increasingly prevalent.
We’re even more connected than ever: work friendships can include exchanging jokes over Slack and email, finding someone to carpool with, sharing playlists, and creating a network of people to celebrate your biggest moments, like weddings and parties. My work friends and I go to the movies and concerts together, and we alternate hosting dinner parties, which adds a lot of joy to my life.
friendship starts in the lunchroom
Nicholas Epley, Professor of Behavioral Science at The University of Chicago, has found that feeling socially connected increases both health and happiness. He notes, “People could improve their own momentary wellbeing—and that of others—by simply being more social with strangers, trying to create connections where one might otherwise choose isolation,” like in the workplace. So how can you begin to foster those relationships in your office?
Start by inviting your co-workers to join you for lunch. If you have a lunchroom, spend time there on your breaks rather than at your desk so that you can get to know people in the office. Try breaking the ice by introducing yourself to new people and asking about the work they do. These kinds of conversations can lead to long-lasting and fulfilling friendships in the office.
small talk is okay & can lead to deeper connection
You don’t have to be best friends with your co-workers—even casual conversations and acquaintanceship can be good for your happiness. Dr. Justine Coupland, an expert in sociolinguistics and author of “Small Talk,” encourages us to think about small talk as “a means by which we negotiate interpersonal relationships” rather than meaningless conversations. She argues small talk is “a crucial function with significant implications for ongoing and future interactions.”
Those water-cooler conversations can help you feel more comfortable with your co-workers and develop a sense of community. Most adults who work full-time spend one-third of their lives at work, so having people to connect with helps infuse purpose and joy into our days.
Establish Boundaries With Your Work Friends
While work friends are important, it’s also essential to establish boundaries as you get to know your co-workers more deeply. Try not to divulge too many personal secrets or problems at the start of the friendship, but gradually build trust—same as you would in any other friendship. Avoid clouding your work friendships with anything malicious; limit gossip, and instead look for ways to connect meaningfully. Lastly, don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there—a lot of adults are looking for more genuine connections and a more lively work environment, too. When you get the chance, opt-in for the next company outing or lunch gathering. Who knows, you could end up sitting next to your new best friend!