We’re speaking from a mental health and production support perspective.
Let’s start with what friendship is
Friendship is a type of affective relationship between two or more people with a certain degree of camaraderie, trust, and goodwill. Friendship is considered a value, and it offers us the opportunity to share many aspects of our professional and personal life at all levels, thus becoming one of the most important supports we can have in our lives. Though there are different types of friendship, aspects such as trust, respect, generosity, and sincerity are key in all of them. Long ago, Aristotle distinguished between friendships of utility (that where people undertake a common goal and help each other to obtain a benefit), friendships of pleasure (common among young people, based on the pleasure of sharing), and friendships of virtue, which is the most authentic and lasting form.
But what about friendship in the workplace? Is it possible to make friends at work, or is it counterproductive and detrimental for me and for the company?
“You don’t come to the office to make friends”
Many people still think that the work environment is not suitable for establishing friendly relationships. Behind this statement are reasons such as the risk of “cronyism,” conflicts of interest, or creating undesirable situations. Indeed, a poorly focused or non-assertive friendship can lead to delicate situations. In recent years, however, numerous studies have confirmed that fostering friendships in the workplace is good for people and companies. Let’s see why.
In 2020, anxiety and depression were the top reason for sick leave worldwide. The pandemic and social isolation have been triggers for the main psychological health problems among the workforce. These problems can be significantly reduced if we carry out our work in environments where well-being and interpersonal relationships are built on trust and collaboration. Regardless of the pandemic, if we consider that we spend more than a third of our lives working, the work environment becomes an ideal place to cultivate friendships, create bonds between colleagues and departments, and feel closeness with those who share our mission. Developing informal relationships beyond the hierarchy or position each of us occupies contributes powerfully to building new ideas and boosting creativity, productivity, and happiness in the work environment. In this context, then, it is excellent to generate friendly relations with colleagues or between managers and their teams. These friendships will create trust, loyalty, unconditionality, sincerity, and commitment. And what better for an organization than to have these values in its workforce?
Friendship is golden
Friendship helps maintain emotional balance. While we must remember that there may be toxic people around us who don’t help us feel better (they’re always complaining, they only see the negative side of things, or they only talk about problems), we interact with many colleagues in the workplace on a daily basis who have different qualities that can enrich us in many ways. Their optimism, different points of view about a problem or concern, the way they look for solutions, and their support or sense of humor can be decisive when maintaining an optimal or reasonable level of mental and emotional health and well-being.
Having shown that friendly relationships at work contribute to reducing levels of work and personal stress, the friends we work with as a team every day will help us in many other aspects: our performance will improve, our levels of trust and commitment will rise, we will feel more energetic and productive, and our satisfaction and feeling of belonging to a work “family” will increase.
Friendship in healthy work environments
Fortunately, it is no longer uncommon for an organization to care about the health and well-being of its employees. Encouraging suitable physical environments, avoiding and controlling psychosocial risks, and providing employees with personal and emotional resources to face crises of any kind are key so that our work performance can be carried out with the maximum assurance of health and safety. Here is where enjoying environments where people interact, as we’ve seen along these lines, is of vital importance in our lives.
If your organization promotes healthy lifestyles and cares about your health and emotional well-being, you will have an exceptional work environment that will provide you with many opportunities to cultivate good relationships and friendships with your colleagues. Take advantage of your breaks and coffee to socialize, share in physical exercise, and enjoy all the values that this entails (overcoming, will, respect, support, motivation, satisfaction, discipline, responsibility, and recognition). Stay open to new experiences and challenges that motivate you and encourage your colleagues to participate. Little by little, almost without realizing it, you will be able to see that an ecosystem of physical and emotional well-being is created, one where you will find yourself to be truly comfortable and where you really want to work.