Working relationships: Friendships are the recipe for productivity and happiness in the workplace

Authored by Hiscox Experts.
5 min read
three colleagues enjoying a hot drink and laughing together

For many full-time workers, it can feel like life revolves around their job. You wake up, you go to work, you go home, you eat, you sleep and then repeat. And while the evolution of technology has driven in flexible hours and remote working, our jobs can still bleed into our free time via phone calls and emails around the clock.

So, with such a significant chunk of our lives committed to our jobs, what does this mean for the relationships we forge with our colleagues? We conducted a study into the nature of working relationships among the UK workforce and how this impacts business. Business and Life Coach, Raghav Parkash and Business Coach, Marisa Guthrie also shared their expert insights into the topic.

Are co-workers strictly professional acquaintances or friends for life? And what kind of impact are friendships in the workplace having on business?

Are long working hours impacting the quality time we spend with friends and family?

graphic showing average time spent for full time employees

Firstly, the survey revealed that the average UK worker spends more time with their colleagues than anyone else in their lives – which probably isn’t overly surprising. To elaborate further, 44.4% of full-time employees spend over 31 hours a week with their co-workers. Romantic partners do come in a close second place with 43.8% claiming to spend over 31 hours with their other half, however, only 26.2% of respondents dedicate the same amount of time to family and a tiny 3.4% to friends. In fact, the average time spent with family and friends is a marginal 0-10 hours a week.

Looking at how different industries fare against each other, data suggests that sales and marketing professionals spend the most time with their colleagues of anyone else – 57% report spending over 31 hours a week with colleagues. In contrast, – 33% report spending 0 hours a week with colleagues. This is likely owing to the independent nature of the sector, which is good news for their romantic partners and friends, as this apparent flexibility in their work helps them spend time with the people they love.

Work friendships are far more than surface level acquaintanceships

graphic showing the impact and importance of workplace friendships

When you think about the sheer number of hours we’re spending with the people we work with from day to day, you may expect these relationships to evolve into more than simply professional associations.

“Having friendships in the office can be very beneficial as we spend a large amount of our time every week at work,” explains Parkash. “Positive and genuine relationships amongst employees become the catalyst of a good company culture, providing effective support systems as an alternative to turning to your manager/director.”

Two thirds of the workers surveyed in the study said that between 1-7 of their current friends are people they met through work. When quizzed on what moment they believe somebody transitions from being purely a colleague to being a friend, 68% said that they think it’s when two co-workers start contacting each other on a personal level outside of work hours.

“When we invite anyone into our lives and deepen our emotional connection with them then we are asking them to become a friend, so this might mean spending time with them outside of work or introducing them to significant people in our lives,” says Guthrie.

And it’s not only friendships that bud from these working relationships. 1 in 5 people have gone on to live with a workmate, just under half say they would go into business with a colleague and nearly 2 in 5 UK professionals have had a romantic relationship with somebody they met at work. This demonstrates that the relationships forged in the workplace are much deeper than surface level acquaintances.

Friendships in the workplace boost productivity and job satisfaction

So, we know that workplace friendships are commonplace, but what sort of impact does this have on a business?

Of those surveyed, 92% think having friends at work improves their job satisfaction. We’re social creatures after all. What’s more, laughter releases mood boosting endorphins[1], so it’s no wonder that employees are happier at work when they have people to share conversations and a joke with on more than solely a professional level.

“Friendships at the workplace can increase our job satisfaction, as the working environment becomes more enjoyable,” says Parkash. “It also creates a sense of familiarity and safety, similar to what we feel at home surrounded by our family and loved ones.”

The advantages of workplace friendships don’t end with happy employees. 90% of respondents think it improves cooperation among teams and 95% think people share ideas more freely when they have a good relationship with their colleagues. Three in four also say they find their manager more approachable for having a friendly relationship with them.

“At times, there will be many discussion points that seem daunting or challenging to bring up with a manager, but having a friendly dynamic really helps to make those difficult conversations and moments even easier,” comments Parkash.

All in all, with UK workers spending over 31 hours a week with their colleagues on average, friendships are inevitably forming – and this is a good thing. Having quality workplace friends can improve employee wellbeing, job satisfaction and productivity in the workplace – and therefore hopefully boosting business performance.

As a business, with the positives, you will likely face numerous challenges and risks too. Hiscox business insurance can offer peace of mind that you are covered when things don’t exactly go to plan, from professional errors to claims from members of the public.

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At Hiscox, we want to help your small business thrive. Our blog has many articles you may find relevant and useful as your business grows. But these articles aren’t professional advice. So, to find out more on a subject we cover here, please seek professional assistance.

Hiscox Experts

The Hiscox Experts are leaders valued for their experience within the insurance industry. Their specialisms include areas such as professional indemnity and public liability, across industries including media, technology, and broader professional services. All content authored by the Hiscox Experts is in line with our editorial guidelines.