The old belief that it’s best to keep our personal and our professional lives separate persists, despite the fact that there are a lot of potential benefits to having friends at work — benefits that could seriously outweigh any potential drawbacks.
As long as you interact with your friends at work responsibly (get your work done, never play favorites, etc.,) they could actually prove to be really good for you, and helpful to your career too.
1. You’ll be happier.
First things first — a big reason why having friends at work is good for you is that it’s fun. Although this benefit might seem obvious, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a really big deal. Research confirms that having friends at work makes us happier. Workers with friends report that their jobs are more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile and satisfying that those who don’t. A Gallup report found that close work friendships can boost reported workplace satisfaction rates by as much as 50 percent. They also found that people who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to report feeling engaged.
2. Friends = network.
When we think of “networking,” we might picture formal business lunches with folks we know marginally, or tiring meetings and bustling conference rooms ripe with “opportunity” we never quite seem to maximize as much as we’d hoped. But, the good news is, your work friends are your network. They’re actually the most powerful facet of your network. They know you. They know your strengths, your passions, and where you’re hoping to go.
At the end of the day, the folks in your network who know you best, and who sincerely appreciate you, are likely to be your most valuable connections. Recent estimates suggest that up to 40 percent of founding startup teams knew each other socially before building a business together. Your career might really benefit from the social connections you form at work.
3. You’ll be more productive.
At first, it might seem that having friends at work could make us less productive. Maybe we’ll clown around when we should be working (or even goof off during a meeting) but that’s not necessarily the case. Research has actually shown that having friends at work makes us more productive, not less. It stands to reason that when you have pals at work, when you feel happier, you feel more present and connected during the day, which increases productivity.
4. You’ll also be more creative.
It helps to be relaxed when you’re trying to be creative. So, whether you’re hoping to be more innovative, or you’d like to heighten your problem-solving skills, having friends to help you stay in the right state of mind during your workday could be a real benefit. Also, when you have friends at work, you might do more brainstorming than you would otherwise. Having coworkers that you respect as a sounding board for ideas could help you to find those creative solutions a little bit sooner.
5. It’ll make the company look good.
Most companies would love to be considered an employer of choice, but ping-pong tables, fully-stocked break rooms, or even awesome compensation packages alone might not cut it. Company culture is a factor, too. Who wouldn’t want to work in an environment that is teaming with joyful, engaged employees?
Having friends at work helps get us to that more positive culture. When laughter echoes down the halls of an office, when people look forward to seeing each other each day, when inside jokes abound, etc., company life gets a little brighter. Not only are you and your friends happier, more productive and creative, and more engaged, because of your bonds — you’re making your company look good while you’re at it.
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This post was updated from an earlier version previously published on PayScale.