The Importance of Workplace Friendships


Whether you’re based in an office or in another working environment, it’s likely that you’re spending a considerable proportion of your time at work.

On average, UK employees spend 31 hours a week at work*, though spending eight hours or more in the workplace each day isn’t uncommon. Coupled with time spent sleeping, commuting and running daily errands, this doesn’t leave much time for leisure activities and spending time with friends outside of the office. In 2015, the Office for National Statistics found that women spent around 4 hours and 19 minutes participating in social activities per week, while men socialised for just 3 hours and 2 minutes each week.

Friendships at Work

With so many hours spent in the office, it’s only natural that we might begin to form friendships with the people we share desks with. We often spend more time with our colleagues than our families – and research shows that enjoying the company of our co-workers could have a significant impact on our personal happiness.

The 2017 Friends in the Workplace report surveyed employees from 120 organisations across the UK. Wildgoose, the company behind the research, was seeking to find out whether workplace friendships were still important in the lives of employees – and what people really want from these relationships.

The research found that 60.83% of participants valued happiness at work over salary (39.17%), and 57.45% said that having a best friend at work made their job more enjoyable. 23.4% said this made them feel more creative, and over 40% stated they’re more productive as a result.

Almost a quarter of participants (23.4%) said they don’t have a best friend at work. A further 12.77% said they don’t have a close friendship in their workplace – but, ideally, would like one.

As the study shows, friendships at work can impact our jobs in many ways – affecting our overall happiness, productivity and creativity. With this in mind, how can we begin to encourage closer relationships with those around us?

Start small, with kindness

17th February 2018 is Random Acts of Kindness Day, an event we love celebrating at People Lab. Our work is based on the key principles of positive psychology; research shows that putting happiness ahead of success is essential in achieving our goals. A few random acts of kindness can go a long way – so if you’re seeking to cultivate new friendships at work, this could be the perfect place to begin.

If you’re struggling for ideas, we’ve listed a few below to get you started:

  1. Instead of saying thank you by email, visit someone at their desk to say it in person
  2. Heading to the kitchen? Make tea/coffee for your colleagues
  3. Leave a colleague a recommendation on LinkedIn – or provide thorough, constructive feedback on a recent project they’ve helped with (in person, by phone or email)
  4. If a co-worker is struggling, offer to take on a difficult task to help them
  5. Leave some change in the vending machine, so the next person’s snack or drink is on you

Extend an invitation

The Friends in the Workplace research asked participants for their preferred method of improving relationships in the office. Almost 30% of respondents said they’d like to attend after work drinks once a month – so why not extend an invitation to your colleagues? It’s a great way to get to know your colleagues outside of the office, and meeting once a month is likely to be manageable for most people.

Not a fan of the pub? The report also found that 27.66% would be interested in playing a sport together once a month, so that’s another option to consider.

Create a social space

In recent research from Office Genie, 74% of employees said their workplaces don’t provide chill-out spaces for staff to relax in. This was reflected in the findings from Wildgoose – almost 15% said having a designated breakout area would be their preferred method of improving employee relationships.

Is there an area of your workplace that could be reinvented as a social space? With a little imagination, you could create an inviting place for your colleagues to spend time together in. Take a look at this blog from our archive, for an idea of what a great place to work looks like – and how work environments impact our productivity.

Do something good

There aren’t many better reasons to join forces with your colleagues than volunteering, or charity work. It’s something many of your co-workers are likely to take an interest in; we all know that doing good feels good.

This one’s simple – get started by sending an email to everyone in your organisation, to find out who’s interested in volunteering in some way. Once you’ve gathered a few likeminded people, you could organise a fundraising event for a charity of your choice. Better still, if there’s a local charity or cause that’s close to the hearts of members of your organisation, you could arrange an away-day to volunteer with your team.

Do you think friendship at work is important? What could you do to create a happier workplace, for everyone? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this – let us know via Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments section below.


Liked this article? Why not try…

It’s time to put happiness first

Get happy in the workplace

How creating the right environment can impact employee happiness

How volunteering can bring employees together


*Office of National Statistics, 2017. This figure is reduced by the inclusion of part-time hours.

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