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When Coworkers Are Family: The Benefits of Close Colleagues

Posted May 06, 2021 | By Wellbeing Network Team

When I think about some of the jobs I’ve had in my life, I am reminded of positions and workplaces I’ve loved and ones I haven’t cared for as much, even though the functions of the jobs were similar. For me, one aspect that made the biggest difference in how much I liked a job was how well I got along with my coworkers. I can think of one specific example where I stayed at a position I didn’t like longer than I would have otherwise – I was friends with my coworkers and that made my days at that job easier and more fun.

Of course, that’s all anecdotal, but are there truly reasons why we should make friends with our coworkers? As it turns out, there are multiple studies that have shown benefits of having friends at our workplace, thus it is important to nurture our relationships at work to create a better workplace for ourselves and others. Let’s look at some of the reasons why we should try to have good relationships with our coworkers.

The Physical, Vocational and Social Wellbeing Benefits

Most of us spend at least 40 hours a week at our job. It only makes sense to enjoy the company of the people we are around the most. While we may not be friends with everyone we work with, we can promote a sense of community and foster positive relationships by being kind to everyone at our workplace. Multiple studies have shown feeling lonely isn’t just bad for our social health, it negatively impacts our physical health, including lowering the immune system and increasing rates of mortality. Given the amount of time we spend at work each week, having a workplace where we feel alone and isolated could have negative, long-term impacts on our health. While it may not always be possible to have close friends at work, at least having acquaintances you can talk to throughout the week will make those 40 hours more fun and potentially make everyone healthier.

There is no “I” in Team

While the phrase “teamwork makes the dream work” may sound like an overused cliché, there is still truth to it. Working with people you like on a team makes the process of being productive and reaching goals so much smoother. If you’ve ever had to work in a group with someone you didn’t care for, you’ll know it can be harder to get tasks done quickly. There’s science that backs this concept up. A 2005 study showed having higher quality work relationships meant that colleagues shared work-related information more quickly and accurately. By working together with those we like, projects become more manageable and can be done more efficiently with improved accuracy.

An Ear to Listen and a Shoulder to Lean On

We all go through difficult times at work. A coworker will likely understand your work issues better than anyone else in your life because they may be experiencing similar situations in the workplace, and they know the personalities and context at play. One study from Rutgers University showed a connection between having friends at work and improved performance. The researchers suggested that this may be related to the fact that the more comfortable you are with your coworkers, the easier it will be to ask for help or advice in tough situations. Or it may be that when you are friends with your coworkers, it’s easier to be in a better mood when going to work, thus improving performance. Either way, the connection makes a strong case for being friends with your coworkers.

Who You Know and What You Know

It’s often said when looking for a new job or a promotion one of the most important factors is who you know. By having friends and high-quality relationships at your workplace, you’ll be in a better position to network when seeking out a new position within your company or somewhere new.

It’s worth noting that while there are many benefits to having your coworkers as friends, having friends at work can also lead to tricky situations. If you and your friend are both applying for a promotion, what happens if your friend gets the promotion and you don’t? Or what will happen to your relationship if your friend gets promoted to a position that makes them your supervisor? Arguably, the benefits of having your coworkers as your friends outweigh the potential risks, but it may also be worth thinking about how you will react if situations like these occur.

While there may be some risks, there are so many benefits and reasons as to why you should be friends with your coworkers, including feeling less lonely at work, better communication, increased performance, and opportunities for networking. It may take time and effort to get to know your coworkers and build friendships but by doing so you are making an effort to improve your health and creating a happier work environment.

About the Author

Rachel Boggs lives in sunny Orlando after spending most of her life in rainy Seattle. She graduated from Rollins College in 2018 with a degree in Communication Studies and Global Health. When she’s not writing about health topics, you can find her thrifting for vintage shirts or having fun at a theme park. 

Take Your Wellbeing a Step Further with These Related Resources from the Wellbeing Network

Learn: Creating a Resume for Today’s World

Engage: Asking the Risk-Takers

Be Inspired: The Power of Teamwork

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