By Kent Mulkey

The most controversial question ever posed by the Gallup Organization in 30 years of employee engagement research is “can I have a best friend at work?”

One school of thought says that one’s work life and social life need to be kept separate. Work is not a place to make friends. But fortunately, there is more recent thinking that says we should bring our humanness to work and even make solid friendships.

People with a best friend at work are seven times more engaged in their work than those who say otherwise!

In his book, “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World”, former Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, MD, makes the argument that not having an authentic connection with other people, whether at work or at home, contributes to loneliness, chips away at our self-esteem, and often leads to various forms of addiction.

Here are five benefits of having a best friend at work:

  1. Clearer Communication. People who experience genuine friendships at work speak more clearly with each other, resolve conflict more thoroughly, and learn to speak the truth in love. (See Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor, for a complete look at how to speak truthfully to co-workers and still maintain a relationship).
  2. Higher Performance. The only thing worse than letting down your boss is letting down a friend. Friendship creates greater collaboration and endurance to complete a project or reach a goal. We are not meant to go it alone.
  3. Fewer People Leave. Having friends at work is the glue that keeps people together and creates an environment where people want to stay around. Some years ago, I led a team of solid, professional people who stayed around for several years, in part because they liked working together and enjoyed each other’s company.
  4. A Healthier Culture. Ping-pong tables, ropes courses, and coffee bars are great perks, but it is the friendships people make at work that form bonds that are tough to break. I know I enjoy doing things with my friends, even in tough and challenging times. The workplace will not return to business as usual after COVID-19. Friendships and cooperation will be the new norm in the work environment. People are going through a “war” together.
  5. More Fun! Work can be hard, especially these days. Having friends to confide in, share struggles, and laugh with can make all the difference in the work environment. A “from-the-belly” laugh cools down your stress response and it can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.