Uncategorized — 23 February 2015
Are friendships at work necessary?

Most people view their work environment as a place to perform their skills, earn an income and deepen their self-regard as capable, successful and productive workers. Though the way one approaches his/her work does make a difference in one’s attained vocational success, the way one relates to others at work may make a profound difference in his/her life, health and longevity.

Bill Gates succinctly stated the practical aspects of work performance when he said, “Here at work we’re all just trying to get a job done. My people have the confidence of their convictions and they know their skills. And that occupies most of my time.” Vincent Van Gogh presented a different view when he said, “I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.” Perhaps the sole preoccupation with the bi-product of one’s endeavor overlooks another major aspect of work that is the essential interpersonal connection to and friendship with co-workers.

The health benefits of one’s social connections and friendships at work are well documented by various studies. Researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel conducted a long-term study of 820 adults workers. They found that “subjects with the most supportive peer relationships at work had a lower rate of mortality, and this effect held over the entire 20-year period of the study. The mortality rate was strongest for subjects between ages of 38 to 43 years old.” Their recommendation was, “Increasing peer social support at work could, in principle, lower the risks of workers’ mortality.”

Similarly, researchers at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia discovered that workers with strong peer connections outlived their co-workers with few friends by 22 percent.

A Harvard Medical School study of 30,000 participants discovered that individuals are impacted by the influence of their friends’ habits. Not only was it true that individuals with obese friends increased their girth, but they were also more inclined to match their friends’ emotional states of loneliness and depression.

Contrary to popular impression that spouses and family members provide the major emotional support regarding one’s health, Bella DePaulo, a visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara stated, “Many studies confirm that friendships have an even greater impact on one’s health than a spouse or a family member.”

Friendships at work facilitate one’s productivity and do so through developing trust, security and team focus. They also affirm one’s talents, skills and thinking processes as well as bolster the worker’s sense of wellbeing. Therefore, it is clear that work friendships are more than a practical advantage but an emotional, health and survival benefit as well.

Cultivate friendships at work:

  • Understand that having friends at work not only facilitates your vocational success and social connectedness on the job but also enhances your physical and emotional health, wellbeing and longevity.
  • Enrich your co-workers by offering your friendship to enhance their job productivity, help create an amiable atmosphere and secure a greater level of satisfaction, happiness and longevity for them.


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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