Having a group of friends at work definitely makes life easier. You have people to chat with when you need a break, know who to sit next to in a meeting, and have automatic lunch plans when you want them. Work just feels more fun when you know you have some friends by your side, especially if you have a high-stress job. Aside from these obvious benefits, a new study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review discovered that the relationships you have at work might be even more important than you think.
The meta-analysis reviewed the results of 58 other studies from over 15 countries and across a variety of job sectors on the relationship between how socially comfortable people were at work and their health. What they found is pretty interesting: the higher a person’s social identification at work, the better their health and well-being. In other words, the more you feel aligned with the organization you work for and the stronger your relationships are with your colleagues, the better off you are. Researchers found correlations between high social identification at work and both physical and psychological health, although the psychological benefits are markedly more significant.
Here’s more good news: the type of job you have doesn’t matter. The study surveyed all types of professions and found similar results across the board. Additionally, the researchers found that when the level of social identification was similarly high within a group, the results were even better. Basically, if you and your coworkers truly feel like a community and have a warm rapport, the more likely it is that you’ll feel psychologically and physically healthy at work. Pretty amazing, right?
If this sounds intriguing but you’re not totally sure how to foster work friendships and a team mentality, here are some tips to get you started.
1. Make an effort to learn about other people. Being truly interested in someone — how they got to where they are now, their family, their hobbies — is probably the best way to find out if you’re compatible as friends and also to signal that you’re interested in being friends. Chances are, you’re likely figure out pretty quickly if you’re destined for regular coffee dates or not.
2. Offer to help out. If you see that a colleague is struggling with something or if they ask for help, make yourself available. Nothing forges a bond faster than showing you’re there for your coworkers when they need you.
3. Work with other teams when you get the chance. If there are projects that are being worked on across different areas of your company, volunteering to participate can give you an opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t interact with otherwise. You never know, your potential work best friend could be someone you never get the chance to work with normally.
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4. Keep it on the positive. When possible, maintain a sunny outlook at the office. It can be tough to relate to someone who is often upset or complaining about work, so don’t be that person.
5. Don’t overshare. Yes, it’s important to be yourself if you’re trying to develop friendships, but sometimes sharing too much can work against you and be a turn off in a professional setting. Let new work relationships develop over time before you divulge all the juicy details of your personal life.