Having an office lunch buddy or post-work happy-hour partner in crime is fun, but it’s also proven to be truly important. Studies have shown these friends can actually boost your productivity at work and make you a happier employee.
In Tom Rath’s 2006 book Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without, the author explains this idea: “When we asked people if they would rather have a best friend at work or a 10% pay raise, having a friend clearly won.” Rath heads Gallup Organization’s worldwide Workplace Research and Leadership Consulting practice, and in surveys of more than 5 million workers found that not only are “people with at least three close friends 96% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their lives,” but it also doubles their salary satisfaction. As USA Today explains, “people who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their job. They get more done in less time. They also have fewer accidents, have more engaged customers and are more likely to innovate and share new ideas.”
There are many reasons American workers have decreased their focus on building relationships in the office. For one, job longevity has gone down. Most millennial workers spend an average of four years or less at their workplace, so making friends can seem pointless. Employees are also putting in more hours each week, so they strive to keep their personal time sacred.
However, it’s important to push past small talk and open up to coworkers with non-work-related conversations. Say no to detailing your love life, but yes to finding some common ground over coffee. In addition to boosting productivity and general happiness, friendships foster sharing, creativity, and ingenuity in the workplace. Instead of focusing inward for growth, Rath encourages leadership teams to promote a work environment with a close-knit, friendly culture. Bonding can be achieved by team outings, such as an improv class, or by thoughtful team-building retreats.
In order to recognize potential friendships at work, here’s a list Rath created to detail various roles friends can play in your life:
• Builder (motivator)
• Champion (sing your praises)
• Collaborator (has similar interests, passions)
• Companion (always there for you)
• Connector (introduces you others, widens your circle)
• Energizer (always gives you a boost, makes you laugh)
• Mind opener (expand your horizons, embrace new ideas)
• Navigator (helps you make decisions)
So, go ahead and divulge your latest Netflix binge to your work friend… then get back to work.
This post originally appeared on Curiosity.