Even if you aren’t one of those people who lives for the work week — picture Steve Carell’s character Michael Scott on “The Office” — there is one way to make Monday through Friday a bit more tolerable: Make friends with your colleagues.
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Experts maintain that positive social interaction between co-workers directly impacts overall happiness and ultimately leads to increased productivity. And you thought water-cooler chat was just procrastination.
In a recent profile on the importance of office relationships on the website Chatelaine, author Katie Underwood compiles evidence in favor of the office buddy system, offering the scientifically supported theory that happy workers are more productive.
She notes that this is why companies like Google and Facebook spend so much effort to make the workplace a fun environment with creative perks like foosball tables, exercise rooms and free food. But thoughtful extras aren’t the only way to promote professional satisfaction at the office.
Underwood cites Neil Pasricha’s book, “The Happiness Equation,” which examines career satisfaction and specifically calls out the importance of workplace relationships. “The work environment is so competitive and challenging now that we have to do more with fewer resources. And all the things that we know make us happy — walking the dog, listening to music, meditating — we don’t spend any time doing,” he explains in the book.
How Much Buddy Time Do You Need?
According to The Atlantic, economists maintain that having a friend you see on a daily basis will increase your happiness to the same degree as earning an additional $100,000 per year. “Just as human beings have a basic need for food and shelter, we also have a basic need to belong to a group and form relationships,” the magazine reports.
Harvard University research agrees, Underwood writes. One study concluded that individuals who ask their co-workers to lunch, arrange office activities and offer to help out others are 10 times as likely to be engaged at work as more introverted employees — and 40 percent more likely to get a promotion.
But while having friends at work can be beneficial, be careful to avoid friction and toxic gossip — just as having friends can increase happiness, losing friendships in the workplace can decrease it nearly the same amount.
One surefire way to distance those valuable co-workers? Stealing their lunch. According to a recent study done by online grocery delivery service Peapod, nearly 75 percent of full-time employees have had their food stolen from a shared fridge.
Because the buddy system is in your best interest as well as your employer’s, even older corporations are looking to the Silicon Valley model to help foster friendships and “substantive conversation” within the office environment. Will longer lunch breaks, team-building exercises and company retreats become the norm now that research backs up that these types of activities encourage camaraderie?
What Do YOU Think?
Do office relationships influence happiness and overall productivity? How have friendships with co-workers impacted your overall professional life? How should corporations encourage friendships among co-workers?