This survey says having friends at work makes you happier

Separate research has shown that work friends are good for you, as workplaces across the country have dealt with an epidemic of loneliness at work.

The workplace is full of friends, from the lunch buddy to the happy-hour cohort to the guy from another department who always stops by for a 3 PM deskside chat. Having friends in the workplace influences employees’ feelings of wellbeing, motivation, and job satisfaction, payroll, and human resources, outsourcing firm Paychex found in an online survey of 1,001 full-time workers.

Separate research has shown that work friends are good for you, as workplaces across the country have dealt with an epidemic of loneliness at work.


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Who’s the friendliest?

So who tends to have the most friends at work? Baby Boomers – especially men, who have, on average, 6.3 work buddies. (They’re also the group most likely to stay at one employer throughout their career, giving them the chance to form lasting bonds). People in management also have more work friends, possibly because they’ve been there longer.

Who needs more friends?

Millennial women had the fewest work pals, at 3.5. That may be due to having jobs that are shorter in duration.

Consultants and temporary workers also have fewer friends, probably because those jobs are by nature ephemeral, requiring them to move from place to place.

According to the data, those who were satisfied with their job had 4.3 friends – and those with just one fewer friends at 3.3 – were dissatisfied.

Friends inside and outside the office

There’s a friend overlap for a little over half of the people – 54.9% said their personal friends knew their work friends.

The most popular work-friend activity was eating lunch – 83.3% of Baby Boomers do it, followed by similar percentages of Gen Xers and Millennials.

Next comes water-cooler chat about non-work chat. (You may want to stick to sports and TV and avoid these sensitive topics). 75% of Baby Boomers prefer this activity, with closely comparable percentages of Gen Xers and Millennials.

And many like to get happy at Happy Hour, but Millennials more than most – 32.1 for Boomers, 34.2% for Gen X, and 40.1% for Millennials.

Hanging out on days off from work is the choice for 39% of Gen X and Millennials. Now that’s the sign of a true work friend. (That said, here are some ways to set boundaries with your work friends, should you need to).

Management approves

People working in management or human resources viewed workplace friendships highly, with 71% viewing them as positive, 4% viewing them as negative, and 25% saying they had no effect.

“I think workplace friendships are great,” said one respondent, a mid-level manager in education. “You spent more time at work than home, and happy employees perform better than unhappy employees. I also think you get more work done, and people work more together when they are friends and comfortable with each other.”


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Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.