Most working adults spend a large part of their day in the company of colleagues. What staffers say and how they act makes a difference because we know behavior—good or bad—is contagious. But those who have colleagues that are there to celebrate wins and lend an ear for grievances might actually end up with more power in the workplace.
The results of a new study from the O.C. Tanner Institute reveal:
- 81% of employees who have a best friend at work are satisfied with their life overall, compared to 73% who said they don't have a best friend at work.
- 75% of employees who have a best friend at work say they feel they’re able to take anything on, compared to 58% of those who don’t.
- 72% of employees who have a best friend at work are satisfied with their jobs, compared to only 54% of those who don't.
These findings were part of a larger health and well-being Study of 2,363 employees in multiple countries. The online survey targeted adults working full-time at companies with more than 500 employees across industries and with a variety of job titles. Respondents were asked about different aspects of their personal life, their current work benefits and perks, how they work, and what skills they use.
The researchers were attempting to measure overall well-being, which they say is more than just physical wellness. "It is a measure of a person’s perception of how her life is going—whether it is fulfilling and satisfying, whether she feels her best every day, and where her life is headed in the future," the study’s authors write.
This is especially important now, according to the study, because employees rate their life at work today lower than their life at home, as well as their future. "On average, employees rate their life inside work today at 5.24 on the 10-point scale," they note. This is regardless of industry, how big their company is, what job they hold, how educated they are, or even how much they earn.
"Good mental wellness has the largest impact of any individual wellness dimension on overall well-being," they observe. And that is due, in part, to having a good friend at work.
Who’s most likely to have a close friend in the office? The answer is surprising. Sure, millennials are most likely to call a colleague their bestie. Indeed, another study found that those between 18 and 24 were more likely to give each other relationship advice or text a manager on a non-work-related issue after hours.
But executives are actually the group with the highest percentage of employees who have a work best friend. This, the researchers say, is evidence that "there are additional benefits to moving up the ranks beyond just higher pay." The study found that having a spouse also actually boosts the likelihood of having a close buddy. "Those in long-term relationships seem to have the most luck at turning watercooler chitchat into a meaningful friendship," the authors write.
Friends impact employees’ overall well-being, which in turn affects productivity. We know that there is no shortage of corporate wellness programs, in part because multiple studies have shown that staff who are healthy cost their companies less money to insure, take fewer sick days, and are less likely to need workers' compensation or disability.
This study found additional boosts to the bottom line in terms of productivity. When asked to rate their current output, for example, those with lower scores on overall well-being reported, on average, that they are only working at 64% of their maximum output. They also viewed their immediate work teams more negatively, estimating that their team was only producing, on average, 61% of their maximum output. The irony is that other studies have shown that one of the reasons for not making friends at work is because we think it’s going to slow down our productivity.
Giving two-thirds, or less effort can seriously ding the company’s balance sheet. On the flip side, the researchers say, "Employees who are holistically well deliver a difference for their teams and departments. In fact, as employee well-being increases, its positive effects resonate throughout the organization and teams become more productive, more collaborative, and prepared to innovate."