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Want to Be Happy at Work? Make Friends, Study Finds

happy at work

Have you been happy at work lately? With the pandemic, we took a giant break from the days of gathering in-person around the water cooler. It was a way for us to take a quick break, connect with our work friends, and make new ones, too. These quick moments were an important way for us to keep connected and be happy at work.

Workplace dynamics shifted when the pandemic hit, and remote working took away our “water cooler time” with our colleagues. Let’s face it, Zoom calls aren’t the best place to spill the tea with work friends.

Our fellow Austinites at JobSage explored how this shift affected workplace friendship dynamics. The study found that employees are less happy at work, due in large part to the shift to remote work, which isn’t expected to go away anytime soon.

“We wanted to do this study because of the abrupt social and remote working dynamics that have occurred over the last few years,” JobSage Cofounder and CEO Jacob Rios told us. “While, personally, we prefer a remote working environment at JobSage, we also know that it comes with its own set of challenges. With this study, we wanted to help quantify some of those challenges.”

The impact working fully remotely has had on workplace friendships is astounding. Some of the most astounding findings JobSage discovered: The average number of work friends among those who switch to remote work dropped by 33% (from three to two), and 66% of remote workers haven’t made any workplace friends.

But haven’t many people decided they’re the happiest working remotely? That may be true when it comes to work-life balance and finding happiness overall, but while you’re at work, it turns out, being alone can take its toll. A similar study to JobSage’s was conducted by CareerBuilder, with both companies finding that making friends at work has a direct correlation to being happy at work, feeling energized, and sparking those creative juices. In fact, JobSage reported that having a friend at work makes you 95% happier, 76% more creative, and 74% more productive. Hey, maybe it’s the antidote to quiet quitting?

And finding friends at work can bring happiness outside of work, too. Many people report finding their best friend at work, and one in three say they make most of their friends in the workplace. The JobSage study also found that 92% say friendships at work are important factors when gauging their willingness to stay at a company. 

While making friends at work might look different now, there are a few things you can do to create and maintain better bonds at work:

  1. Start at the job-seeking stage: Ask about opportunities for collaboration, socializing, or team building with colleagues. This is especially important for remote jobs.
  2. Don’t make age a factor: You may find it easier or even more beneficial to forge connections with people of different ages. About 65% of JobSage’s respondents have had a friendship with someone significantly older at work, for instance.
  3. Embrace diversity: JobSage found that work significantly increases the opportunity to make friendships across other demographics. “One surprise in this study, which personally made me smile, was learning that work can help foster friendships from different demographics when compared to non-work friends. For example, 60% of people have more friends at work with different political views when compared to non-work friends. I loved reading this,” Rios told us.
  4. Look across management levels: It’s okay to be friends (keep it friends!) with a manager in your company. According to JobSage, 64% of respondents have been friends with a manager.
  5. You don’t have to meet in real life: While remote work makes it harder to do, you can still make friends from afar. JobSage says that one in four people have had a work friend that they’ve never met in person.
  6. Create subgroups: Gather folks—either in person or virtually—who have something in common, such as a book group, gaming group, or cooking club. We recently offered some guidelines on how to (and how not to) do it.

And remember, your employer—if they’re a good employer—wants to see you happy at work. If a work arrangement is no longer making you happy, find out if there’s a way to modify it. And if you’re looking for a job, be sure to share what makes you happy with our recruiters so they can help you find the right fit.