The Importance of Workplace Friendships

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Workplace comedies are some of the most watched series on television and streaming services – but the settings of these shows certainly aren’t exceptionally exciting, so what’s the secret ingredient behind their success? Shows like The Office, Parks & Rec, Scrubs, and so many more capitalize on the fact that it’s not where we are or what we’re doing, it’s who we’re with. Colleagues understand our unique positions within our organizations (and the struggles that come with them) on a level no one else can. Close coworkers provide safe spaces to share our professional triumphs and struggles, from the biggest wins to the pettiest of day-to-day gripes. Work friends are a key factor when it comes to career happiness, and for many of us, they’re the people who make work worthwhile – according to a 2017 study from OfficeVibe, 70% of employees say that workplace friendships are the most crucial element to a happy working life. 

Coworkers understand our unique situations better than anyone else can. You can have the best friends, families, or partners in the world, but unless they’re alongside you in the trenches, they’ll never understand the minutiae of your day to day to the extent that your coworkers do. As we progress down our chosen career paths, our jobs typically become more specialized–and in fact, there’s a good chance your family and friends don’t actually know too much about what you do outside of your job title (e.g., they might know that you work in hotel sales, but not that you specialize in luxury packages for large corporate groups). Colleagues, on the other hand, have an intimate understanding of our job specs, and are familiar with the ups and downs that come with them. 

Work friends will be there through the good times and the bad. It’s absolutely normal to vent when you find yourselves in a frustrating situation, but if you’re constantly complaining to the entire office, people will slowly but surely begin to view you in a negative light. Having a best friend at work (or a small group of trusted colleagues) means having a safe space to unload when the going gets tough. That’s not to say that you should take advantage of your work friends and unload every time you get the chance–nobody likes a whiner!–but colleagues will likely sympathize with your situation, and may be able to offer some words of wisdom. On the flip side, your work friends will also be there when it’s time to celebrate! They’re the first people you’ll ask to happy hour when you get a raise, earn a promotion, or win the office chili cookoff. Just be sure to have their backs when the tables are turned.

At the simplest level, work friendships help pass the time and keep us entertained. How does it feel when your best friend at the office takes the day off? Regardless of how well-deserved or needed that break might be, chances are time passes a little more slowly than usual. Think about some of the workplace comedies mentioned above. The Office takes place at a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania–which (unless you have a love of paper to rival Dwight Schrute’s) barely registers on the interest-meter. The Office became a smash hit by portraying the characters’ relationships at the most basic, human level; the ways in which ordinary people interact on a daily basis. It’s easy to see ourselves reflected in these characters, and that’s undeniably because workplace relationships are such an important part of work. As an added bonus, Gallup studies show that employees with close friends at work are twice as engaged as those without – so workplace bonding is really a win for everyone!

Many of our adult friendships are formed through the workplace, and for good reason–even if your work friends aren’t your closest confidantes outside the office, having a group of trusted colleagues with whom you can share your triumphs and tribulations indubitably enhances emotional well-being at work. Think about everything your work friends have done for you; all of the emotional ups and downs they’ve helped you through, the days when they’ve put a smile on your face with a funny email forward, or the times they’ve stayed late to help you with a project. Take some time this week to thank your work friends for being there for you–write a thank-you card, ask if they need help with anything, or order a Drizly delivery to their house. They’ve earned it!