Having Friends In The Workplace Is More Important Than We Thought

Work and friends are two things that don't often go together — in fact, you might run to your friends to get away from the work grind. That might be why, despite the advent of cute terms like "work husband" and "work bestie," on-the-job friends are becoming rare. A Gallup survey found that only one in five people have a best friend at work (a number that's been on the decline in recent years), and the same number say they have no workplace friends at all, per a JobSage study.


If you're all about that quiet quitting life or have hopped on one of its offshoot trends, like Bare Minimum Mondays, the last thing you probably want to do is act buddy-buddy with your co-workers and start making friends in the workplace. But doing just that could change how you feel about your job in positive ways that might even spill over into your personal life (and if you already love your job, you might love it even more). Here's why it's so important to have besties in your 9-to-5 and how to start making connections if you don't already have any.

You might feel less lonely

According to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General, social connection is declining in the U.S. More people are struggling with loneliness and isolation than in the past, a trend that can impact physical health just as much as it does mental health. One shocking statistic in the report compares the effects of loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.


Loneliness isn't usually solvable overnight, but the Surgeon General does pinpoint some places where connection can be found, including the workplace. Making friends at work also checks out with the concept of "locationships." According to friendship expert Dr. Marisa Franco, a locationship is a friendship created among people who share the same location — such as a neighborhood or place of work — and it's one of the easiest kinds of friendships to make. Data from the Survey Center on American Life also suggests that the workplace is the most common place to find your people. In fact, it notes that 54% of Americans with close friends met their bestie at work.

In short, if your social life needs a boost, take a look at your co-workers. Your new BFF could be as close as the neighboring cubicle or the company break room.


Workplace friends can help you get through difficult times

Here's something you probably need no reminder of: Work can be stressful. During especially hard seasons, you might get through the day only by dreaming of the moment you can finally clock out. But this isn't the only way to cope — having a work BFF can help take some of the pressure off. "One of the most important things to have in the workplace is a close relationship," Jason Nazar, the CEO of Comparably, shared with CNBC Make It. "So very often the largest source of stress for people is a boss, co-worker or the day-to-day pressures of work." Having someone you can confide in who understands the ins and outs of your work day can make it easier to deal with stress and setbacks when they arise.


Even if you're going through tough times off the clock, a workplace friend can lend a helping hand. Gallup's survey on friendship at work revealed that workplace BFFs were critical to employees during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as they faced not only job stress but new challenges at home. Without these friendships, Gallup notes, people became more isolated and had fewer confidants to turn to for help.

You might perform your job better

If you're ready to swap quiet quitting for quiet thriving — that is, you're ready to take action to improve your relationship with your job — finding a work buddy can be a good place to start. Gallup survey data shows that employees are more engaged and successful when they have workplace friends.


You might also perform better when you have a network of trusted people around you. For instance, if you're embarrassed to ask your boss questions or don't want to make a mistake in front of higher-ups, you can first consult a friend at work to get their feedback. As the old adage goes, two heads are better than one.

Besides appearing more competent and on your game, you'll likely accomplish a lot more too. Gallup notes from its survey findings that people who have work besties are more productive, more likely to engage with customers and business partners, and less likely to have dangerous workplace accidents.

You can flex your creative muscles more

Whether you work in an artistic field or not, creativity can go a long way in helping you secure your role in your company and negotiate for that well-deserved promotion you've been eyeing. But creativity doesn't come by being an island, even if you prefer solo brainstorming — it requires collaboration and workplace friends to bounce ideas off of.


There's data to back this up. A 2020 study published in the journal Chinese Management Studies found that workplace friendship was associated with "innovative behavior." In other words, when people feel like their co-workers have their back, they're more likely to take creative risks and share original ideas.

A survey by Wildgoose, a platform offering team-building activities, found something similar. Over one in five survey respondents said they feel more creative if they have a work best friend (and perhaps the other four out of five were too busy having fun with their workplace BFFs to notice their buddies' impact on their creativity).

You might stay at your job longer

Be honest: Are you a commitment-phobe? No, not in your love life, but at work. While you should never stay stuck in a garbage job or one that doesn't suit your goals, sticking with one company for a while could have some benefits, according to Harvard Business Review. These can include more seniority, personal growth, and better retirement benefits, just to name a few.


However, you may be less likely to stick it out over the long haul if you don't have a few work friends in your corner. A Workforce survey (via the Society for Human Resource Management) discovered that — unsurprisingly — people with six or more workplace friends felt more connected to their companies. Even if offered another job, the majority of respondents with work best friends would choose to decline it and stay in their current job.

Though these findings may seem like they'd benefit your boss more than you, they point to the fact that having confidants at work gives you options. Instead of being in a job you're desperate to leave, you can make the most of where you're at until you decide it's time to move on.


How to start making friends at work

If you haven't found your workplace bestie or on-the-job squad yet, it's not too late. However, it might take a little extra work — literally. One way to start leaving a positive impression on your colleagues is to speak up at meetings and boldly participate in projects — no more hiding quietly in the background. This will help others take notice and make it easier to start interacting.


Consider making the most of your downtime at work too. Whether your workplace actually has a watercooler or not, "watercooler talk" — chats during break times or when you step away from your desk — can be a valuable opportunity to strike up a conversation. Just be sure to keep exchanges mostly positive. "Offset whining, the sharing of hard things, or work stress with bonding through adding positive feelings to those around you," Shasta Nelson, author of "Friendships Don't Just Happen" and expert on workplace friendships, told Insider.

Even in your quest to make friends, remember that boundaries are always a must and you don't have to share all aspects of your life. Especially in the beginning, when most of your interactions will take place at work, keep things professional — and respect your co-workers' limits too. Your friendship can still be meaningful, even if you don't know every detail about each other's off-the-clock lives.