Having a best friend at work is hard but important

Rachel Dodes and Lauren Mechling are two journalists. They are also friends and have written a novel together The Memo (unpublished in French, published in June 2024). Drawing on their experience and noting the success of the theme and hashtag #workbestie on Instagram and Tiktok, they devoted an article to friendship at work in the pages of the Wall Street Journal.

Remote work has made professional friendships harder to form. According to a 2022 Gallup survey of 4,000 employees who partially work from home, only 17% of respondents have a best friend at work, down from 22% in 2019. This decline is due to video conferencing that has largely replaced physical meetings, but also to stress related to the “ephemeral nature of work and anxiety about artificial intelligence”. “The modern office has become a more isolated and confusing place,” note the two authors. And that is a shame, because “Gallup data repeatedly shows that employees with a best friend at work feel more engaged and productive.”.

Now, you can befriend a coworker online and keep that friendship going even when one of you moves to another company. That’s exactly what happened to Rachel Dodes and Lauren Mechling. They say:

“We believe that these new ‘context-independent’ connections are more powerful and necessary than previous on-site (bonded) work friendships.”

But what makes office best friends so valuable? A certain form of intimacy first, because “They innately understand the subtleties of our daily trials, which is impossible for outsiders, even spouses.”. They know your colleagues, can share gossip, but even more, they can advise you with full knowledge of the facts. Better still, friends at work can give each other honest and constructive professional advice. For this to happen, certain conditions must still be met. According to the experts interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, The ideal is when friends do not have a direct hierarchical relationship and even operate in different teams, so that there is no direct competition.

Companies have also quickly understood that friendship at work can increase the productivity and involvement of their employees: “Corporate karaoke nights may seem forced, but the potential benefits are huge.” “Despite all the talk about the boundaries between work and personal life, work is still often much more than a means of earning a living,” conclude the two authors… and friends!

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