Work - friends or no friends? - Business Works
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Work - friends or no friends?

by Mark Pearcy, Head of Marketing, 4Com Most people spend more time with their colleagues than anyone else in their lives, but how well do we know the people we work with? Business telecommunications provider, We commissioned a survey amongst 1000 UK office workers, looking into Britons' attitudes towards their co-workers to reveal just how willing the nation is to create meaningful relationships with those they spend so much time with day-to-day, says Mark Pearcy, Head of Marketing at 4Com.

According to the research however, this can differ from industry to industry. Finance comes in as the friendliest occupation with 81% of workers saying they have made lifelong friendships with colleagues, refuting the idea that work is 'merely a place to get a job done, then go home'.

Based on numbers of people who have made meaningful friendships at work, the top five friendliest industries are:

  1. Financial services (81.1%)

  2. . Business to business (80.8%)

  3. Health / healthcare (79.5%)

  4. Education (77.9%)

  5. Retail (77.9%)

But is having close friendships at work a help or a hindrance?

According to Consultant Psychologist and Clinic Director Dr Elena Touroni from The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, close relationships at work can actually be good for productivity. She says, "When people get on well and develop friendships, there is a greater supportive and positive energy, which ultimately makes the experience of going to work more pleasant. Although it can be more complex in some instances, being in an environment that you enjoy generally has a positive effect on your overall productivity. Long story short: happier people work harder."

This tallies with the experiences of UK workers as the majority of those with close friendships agree that the relationship makes them more productive. Their top reasons for this are:

  1. Because it makes me enjoy my job more (72%)

  2. Because I can always count on them to have my back if anything goes wrong (38%)

  3. Because it makes me look forward to the day ahead and getting out of bed in the morning much easier (36%)

Speaking about her best friend, Rachel from Leeds says, "I met my best friend two years ago at work. A few weeks after starting at the company, I went to the Christmas party where I met the other newbie, Charly. We clicked straight away, couldn't stop talking and literally cried with laughter. We quickly became inseparable in and outside of the office."

"As we were both new to working in the industry, we helped each other tremendously. We had talents in different areas of the job and felt comfortable asking each other for help without the fear of judgement on things we weren't yet confident in. This helped to ease any anxieties or worries about our own abilities and learn new skills. We stood side by side throughout the (many) ups and downs, in and outside of work, and although she's moved to a different country, I know we'll be friends for life."

On the other hand, a quarter (25%) of UK workers say they have never established a relationship with colleagues that goes beyond the normal small talk. For them, the most common reason is simply that they are at work to do a job, not for friendship (39%), while a further quarter (25%) admitted having nothing in common with their workmates.

Other reasons expressed for not forming friendships at work include:

  • One in three healthcare workers who haven't made friends at work say it's because work friends can cause a lot of drama (31%)

  • Two in three B2B workers who haven't had strong work friendships say it's because they're there to do a job, not make friends (71%), way more than any other sector

  • People in retail are most likely to say having a friend makes them enjoy work more (75% of retail workers who have friends at work say this)

  • People in transport socialise with work mates outside of work the most - one in three (34%) who have close work mates hang out with them 3 or more days a week!

  • But 5% of finance workers who say they have made friends at work hang out with them every single day!

Consultant psychologist Dr Touroni provides some insight, "Some people can find vulnerability in a work environment threatening, so preserving a boundary between personal and professional life helps them feel more secure. This self-protective mechanism is especially relevant when one is in a position of authority. Close friendships become a lot more complicated when a power dynamic is introduced, so it is often easier to maintain a level of distance with lower-level colleagues if you are in a position of seniority over them."

We spend a lot of time with our colleagues, more so than with our other friends and family, so it's nice to see that we're building strong and meaningful relationships with these people. To help you make the most of your work relationships, we have put together a blog post with more findings from the study and some helpful tips.

To find out more, you can read the blog post: Do you have a 'work spouse'?

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