Research shows that maintaining genuine friendships at work can make us more productive and happy, write Marissa King, a professor of organizational behavior at Yale SOM, and Emma Seppala of Stanford University in an article published in Harvard Business Review on August 8.
Americans are less likely to have close friends at work than people in other countries, but those that that do report staying longer in a job and being more productive, satisfied, and engaged.
“Research shows that, after food and shelter, belonging is a fundamental human need.,” King and Seppala write. “The workplace, where we spend such a large portion of our time, is an ideal place to foster the positive connections we all need—not just for our well-being but also for our productivity and health.”
Having friends at work has downsides too, the authors say. It can be exhausting, and maintaining a friendship amid workplace hierarchies and responsibilities can be difficult.
Some prefer to maintain some distance at work, King and Seppala say, but that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy some of the advantages of friendship: “Many of the benefits that come from having friends at work likely emanate from values like vulnerability, authenticity, and compassion. Emphasizing these values, rather than the relationships, can allow workplaces to feel ‘friendly’ even if there aren’t real friendships.”