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Business and Pleasure: The Winning Combination

Here’s how friendship in the workplace can boost productivity, and how you can help foster friendship in your team.
by Conor O'Rourke | Mar 5 2015
The old adage, “separate your friends from your work,” is more outdated than VHS.


Who accompanies you to the cinema? Who’s on speed-dial in case of a major life crisis? Who does the back-busting work on moving day? Friends, that’s who, and they’re as key a component to a good life as professional satisfaction.

As critical as friendship may be, traditional wisdom is that friendship isn’t conducive to a successful working environment. It’s high time to send the business-versus-pleasure dichotomy to the scrapheap, because research has shown that the most effective teams can be made up of people with intimate social ties.

In his book The Best Place to Work, Ron Friedman identifies cultivating friendship among colleagues as one of his methods for creating an effective workforce.

Here’s a little more on why you should and how you can promote inter-office friendships to get your teams working better than ever.

Why friendship works at work

Unsurprisingly, friendship is wondrous for retention. According to a study by Christine Riordan, Ph.D., workers reported higher levels of job satisfaction just when they feel they have the opportunity to make friendships – to say nothing of actually making those friends. Furthermore, in a 2013 survey of Australian workers, the top reason people decided to stick with their current job was a “good relationship with co-workers.”

On a more personal level, another benefit of friendship in the workplace is that it negates loneliness. Loneliness can be incredibly detrimental to a personal life, and a workplace in which people feel alienated from their colleagues and are holed up in separate cubicles creates it. The CDC found that depression, a common facet of which is loneliness, is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year and cost employers $17 – $44 billion. Think about it – when you as a leader make sure that sure nobody gets lonely at work, you’re not only taking care of your teams, but might be improving the bottom line, too.

Fostering friendship in the workplace

Understanding how people make friends in the first place is a key part of the argument in The Best Place To Work. Friedman says there are three components: physical proximity, familiarity, and reaffirming similarity. Removing cubicles and barriers helps to boost the physical proximity of co-workers, and when people work continuously on the same projects, familiarity and similarity grows naturally from there.

What can really cement friendship, however, is a powerful hormone: adrenaline. Friedman explains that, because higher levels of adrenaline help you to connect with people around you, physical group activities – obstacle courses to relays to the vintage egg-and-spoon race – are also friendship boosters. So, scheduling a sports day as soon as the weather turns warm might not be a bad idea!

Here’s a final thought: a workforce that promotes friendship is also one of which the workforce is proud. Pride motivates people to produce better work, and has one extra plus, too: publicity. In his book, Friedman explains that it’s pride that influences people’s willingness to tell their friends and neighbors about where they work.

Before you hush your employees from fraternizing, or nix the after-work cocktails in favor of keeping everyone on a project a little late, take pause: employees who are happy at work and feel socially supported by a team of friends are far likelier to help your business soar.

You get the gist. It’s time to make friends! If you fancy finding out more about why friendship is a workplace elixir, then check out Ron Friedman’s The Best Place to Work. Or you can always give the Blinkist summary a read, it’ll only take around thirteen minutes.

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