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As individuals, these connections are important to us in a number of ways. Approximately 46 percent of professionals worldwide believe work friends are important to their overall happiness, according to a study by LinkedIn, and psychologists have shown this to be true: neurologically speaking, having a friend you see nearly every day brings the same level of joy as making $100,000 more each year.
Work friendships have certainly boosted overall happiness for Cheryl Borre, CT technologist, and Nicole Trewyn, radiology lead at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital - Janesville, who have been friends for nearly 30 years. They met at SSM Health Dean Medical Group in Riverview in 1997 and have worked together daily ever since.
“We are like family, taking care of each other with work issues and also with family life,” said Borre. “We have rejoiced and cried with each other through the ups and downs of life. It makes you enjoy coming to work because there are people that care about you as a co-worker and a friend.”
The benefit is not limited to personal happiness, but can extend to professional happiness and success as well, and even to the overall successfulness of an organization. Research by Gallup shows that having a best friend at work is one of the best predictors of productivity and employee engagement, boosting employee satisfaction by 50 percent. The impact of these friendships is extensive; employees who reported having a best friend at work are:
Tammy Powell, president of St. Anthony Hospital, and Marti Jourden, regional vice president of quality & performance improvement for SSM Health in Oklahoma, have been colleagues and friends for 25 years and know the value of work friendships first-hand.
“I believe that Tammy and I expect a lot of ourselves in our work performance and in our friendships. We trust each other to speak honestly even when it becomes uncomfortable, knowing there is no judgment,” Jourden said.
A study from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Minnesota explains that close friends are more likely to communicate better and give more critical and continuous feedback than coworkers who are merely acquaintances, because friends feel safer collaborating and are more likely to believe their opinions matter.
Gallup also identifies having a best friend at work as “the true key to effective change integration and adaptation,” because while employees who have close friends at work experience the same levels of stress as anyone else, they are more likely to believe that their coworkers will help them through those challenges, resulting in much healthier stress management.
Jourden does indeed credit her friendship with Powell as a strong support through professional challenges, like a consolidation effort several years ago that resulted in the unavoidable loss of several employees’ jobs. “This was a very stressful time for us as well as the employees. Our friendship helped us get through this tough time while also creating more effective programs, and the experience ultimately solidified our friendship,” Jourden said.
For Borre and Trewyn, that mutual support shows up in small ways every day. “Having worked together for so long, we know what the other one is doing, and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We can step in for each other when needed,” Borre said.
When it comes to employee retention, Gallup reports that while loyalty to an organization is important, an employee’s loyalty to his or her coworkers – in other words, the quality and depth of employees’ relationships – plays an even bigger role, making it worthwhile for both individuals and organizations to invest in fostering friendships at work.
“Sometimes it is tough to schedule time together, but we plan months out in order to make it happen. We always make our time together a priority. We take the time to attend those events that our friends care about, celebrate birthdays, share our accomplishments and our sorrow,” said Jourden, “because that’s what friends do for each other.”
Be sure to wish your best friend at work a Happy National Friendship Day!
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