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  1. Blog
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Why Having Friends at Work Will Make You Happier (& 10 Tips for Bonding with Coworkers!)

Go best friend, that’s my best friend

Friends at work laughing
Photo courtesy of Gemma Chua-Tran

We spend roughly a third of our lives at work, so we might as well try to make friends while we’re there. At the end of the day, we sometimes end up spending just as much time with work friends as our own families, and they help us through some really challenging times and hardships in and out of the workplace. 

And the benefits of having friends at work aren’t just limited to having someone to debrief with on the newest episode of Euphoria or someone to send hilarious memes to, as nice as that is. Research actually shows that people who have friends at work are more engaged, produce higher-quality work, and have a higher state of wellbeing. Plus, these workplace bonds tend to lead to real, lasting friendships—61 percent of people claim to still be close with a best friend from a previous job.

Here’s what the research says about having friends at work, plus ten tips on how to make friends in the workplace if you’re new to the game. 

Read more: 24 Reasons to Thank Your Work Wife (or Husband)

Should you make friends at work? Yes, and here’s what the research says

A Gallup study showed that women who have a best friend at work are less likely to be actively looking for job opportunities, more likely to rate their organization's performance higher, more likely to take risks that could lead to innovation, and less likely to report feeling worry, stress, or fatigue during the workday. 

Basically, having friends at work helps us feel a sense of belonging, an absolutely fundamental human need after food and shelter. And data backs up the need for belonging in the workplace—belonging at work is linked to increases in job performance, lower risks of turnover, and reductions in sick days

Here are more ways friends at work affect our overall engagement, productivity, happiness, and job satisfaction.

Having friends at work improves employee engagement and productivity

Because friends help to motivate and encourage you, people who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their job. Plus, they report higher levels of productivity than those who don’t have friends at work. 

“People are more creative and productive when they experience more positive inner work life, including more positive emotions, stronger motivation toward the work itself and more positive perceptions of the organization,” says Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile, coauthor of The Progress Principle. “And one of the things that contributes to positive inner work life is a sense of camaraderie with teammates and close coworkers—a sense of bonding and mutual trust.”

Having friends at work increases employee satisfaction and happiness

It’s not surprising that socializing with friends at work makes us happier—building bonds with others makes us feel more connected, which can in turn help boost our productivity and satisfaction in the workplace. A LinkedIn study about relationships at work found that 46 percent of professionals believe that having work friends enhances their overall happiness. 

A separate study found that 70 percent of employees say having friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life, with some employees even saying they’d forgo a good salary at a higher-paying job if it meant leaving their friendships behind or not getting along with their new coworkers. 

Having friends at work improves employee retention

After transparency and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies, friends at work trail close behind as a top factor in employee retention. The same Gallup study from above revealed that employees are less likely to look for a new job or accept a job offer if they have friends at their current place of work. The reason is simple—the more connections you have at work, the more loyal and engrained you feel to your company, making you less likely to jump from job to job.

Plus, people tend to leave jobs when their friends leave. So, for employers, it’s important to be proactive about building a great place to work and offer employees opportunities to bond and make friends since turnover is expensive—the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates the cost to replace an employee is about one-third of their annual salary. 

Read more: Trust, Accountability & Retention: Why Transparency at Work Matters

10 tips for making friends at work

Clearly, making friends is essential if we want to remain happy in the workplace. Having friends at work has always been important, but is especially important now, since our new majority remote-first work landscape has seriously blurred the lines between work and life for some employees, meaning they have significantly less time to have a fulfilling social life outside of work. 

If you want to connect with more of your coworkers and there aren’t many employer-led initiatives, try these tips to make new friends at work.

1. Ask your coworkers to virtual coffee or lunch chats

A quick virtual coffee or chat over lunch is a great way to bond with coworkers and engage in casual conversations that you wouldn’t normally have in team meetings. Ask them about where they’re from, their hobbies, or their family, and get to know a whole new side to them.

2. Propose team-wide bonding events

If you want to break the ice with your coworkers and feel a sense of camaraderie, propose some bonding events or activities for your team. Try playing virtual Pictionary, initiating a monthly craft challenge, or starting a book club. Not only will you get to build new relationships and share a few laughs, you’ll learn how to best communicate with your peers and improve your collaboration skills. If it goes well, turn it into a recurring monthly event!

3. Lead an employee resource group (ERG)

There are many different types of ERGs—diversity, affinity, volunteering, and professional development are just a few. Affinity ERGs in particular are a fantastic way to develop friendships since they allow individuals with shared interests and hobbies like reading, bike riding, or cooking to build deeper personal connections and socialize outside work. If you work with a remote team, share your favorite new books, biking trails, or recipes online to keep the momentum going even if you can’t meet up in person. 

4. Don’t gossip

If you want to make friends at work, gossiping is certainly not going to do you any favors. Avoid talking negatively about other coworkers, starting rumors, and bashing others’ ideas. And if you hear someone else gossiping, stand up for yourself and your friends. Showcasing your morals and commitment to seeing the bright side of things will definitely draw people to you. 

5. Throw out funny conversation starters online

Funny conversation starters are a great tool to make yourself more memorable when meeting people for the first time or when simply interacting with coworkers on a day-to-day basis. If you use a messaging platform like Slack, throw out a question of the day or a funny conversation starter like “What food describes your personality?” It’s a fun, creative way to make friends, and laughing at work can even boost our productivity

6. Start a group message for special interests

Start a new Slack channel or text group message for the purpose of discussing a common theme or interest. Brainstorm a theme, whether it be about sports, a TV series, recipes, books, traveling or any other work appropriate topic, and let coworkers share their experiences, thoughts, and opinions.

7. Attend non-work events together

If you’re able to meet with coworkers in person, go volunteer together, take a walk, or go see a movie in theaters. Any opportunities you have to converse with your colleagues about non-work topics can help improve your workplace relationships. 

8. Decorate your workspace

Whether you have pictures hanging on the wall behind you in a virtual meeting or keep a dozen succulents in your office workspace, having little decorations and mementoes around you that show off your personality and interests can turn into great conversation starters. Someone might discover that they have the same breed of dog as you or that they also used to ski in the same little town that you did in your last family vacation. 

Read more: Reclaim Your Focus (& Space) with These Home Office Decor Tips

9. Bring treats to the office

When in doubt, remember that food always makes friends. If you go into the office, surprise your coworkers with donuts or a hot chocolate carafe one morning. It’s an easy way to draw people away from their desks and into a communal space like the kitchen to have a catch up chat over a tasty treat. 

Read more: Ask a Recruiter: How Can I Learn About a Company’s Culture When I’ve Never Met Anyone in Person?

10. Be open when meeting new people

You always want to make a good impression when meeting someone for the first time. Take a look at our best practices for introducing yourself and try sharing a fun fact about yourself. Let your personality shine and be authentic. 

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