The Value of Friendships at Work

Written by
Salve Salvana

Each month we ask creative professionals to dive into a different theme about the creative working world.

In this week’s focus we explore the nuances of making friends at work. Should we keep work and personal life separate or is life too short to avoid connection? Are friendships with colleagues crucial for success and fulfilment or are social boundaries in the workplace underrated?

On the most part it’s really enriched my life and made me stick in jobs longer than I would have done without them. Re boundaries, I’ve learnt to take friendships slower in work places as when they do go wrong it’s more complicated. However, some of my best friends have come from a workplace that was incredibly stressful, the experience bonded us.

- Katie, Communications Manager

I’ve always found workplace friendships to be a vital part of a healthy work environment. They encourage you on both a professional and personal level, which I’ve always felt helped me excel more in my work. When I started my current position I was apprehensive going into a new group of people but when you instantly click it’s such a comfort & makes you all work better as a team, especially from a creative perspective. I’ve had the pleasure of making some life-long friendships at work & hope I get to continue doing so!

- Millie Windibank, Communications Assistant at Jelly New York

I've had both good and bad experiences making friends at work. Ultimately I think its important to set boundaries in work relationships especially while you both work at the same company. However, I've made friends at work who have become invaluable mentors and guides, that have helped me not only navigate my career and work spaces but are also some of the best people I know.

- Anonymous, Brand Designer

I think overall, it's great to make friends at work. Generally speaking, if you can work with your friends and know the clear boundaries (if any, i.e. if one is a senior leader, and the other a mid-level). However, where lines become blurred between friends at work does depend on the levels of seniority. Even with a flat structure, there has to be some kind of trajectory with line management/performance reviews. And, if you line manage a friend, are they getting the best out of you as a line manager?

But, I feel it should be widely said that generally speaking, friendships at work are great and healthy as long as boundaries are clear. But, I suppose blurred lines come in when you could be friends with a line manager or a senior leader. Clear boundaries around communication, progression, performance should be left for work and yes, friendship can come into play but it comes with some caution. If I was a line manager, I'd want to make sure I had a transparent relationship with my report, almost like a friendship but they'd be of the understanding that there are certain work topics I cannot communicate, i.e. Board updates, business plans, financial forecasts etc.

- Christabel, HR Manager

For me, I think friendships at work are underrated. Having a support network at work is invaluable and can get you through a lot of the challenges you face in the workplace, in fact, I've met some of my best friends at work. Charlene and I actually met working together and became colleagues and friends simultaneously. So, when we decided to work together again on A Vibe Called Tech we knew our friendship wouldn’t be affected. If anything our friendship has only become stronger and continues to do so.

- Lewis, Creative Director at A Vibe Called Tech

As an American joining a British company years ago, I now realise I came in a bit like a wrecking ball at first - a few decibels louder than everyone and with a penchant for dropping the F-bomb in nearly every sentence. My counterpart is your classic ‘English Rose’ - quieter, considered, and always impeccable. It took us time to find our rhythm, but over the years we’ve developed the most wonderfully symbiotic relationship, both outwardly when sharing our work at client meetings, and in our one-on-one matcha-fuelled brainstorming sessions. She’s taught me the art of ‘pausing for thought before I speak’… and I’d like to think her artful integration of the occasional curse word into her spoken thoughts is at least partially due to my influence. She’s a force, her deep passion for the arts and dedication to craft inspires me on the daily, and while we’re now separated by the Atlantic (with me leading our NY office and her holding it down the London studio), nothing makes me happier than hunkering down with her on either side of the pond to mind-meld together. So cheers to you my Nicki ‘Noodles’ Field, partner in G&Ts and after-work birdwatching, and a dear friend who is most certainly stuck with me for life.

- Eri, Executive Producer at Jelly New York

Some further reading on the themes explored in this article:

10 Ways To Set Healthy Boundaries At Work: Caroline Castrillon guides us on when and how to draw the line for Forbes.

How To Avoid Feeling Lonely In An Age Of Remote Working: In this Creative Boom piece, Tom May gives tips on how to stay connected with others during remote work.

Research Shows Having A Friend At Work Can Boost Happiness For Young People: In this Forbes article, Tess Brigham explores the benefits of work friendships.

The If You Could Jobs Journal is a space where industry leaders have the opportunity to share their unique vision and insight into the creative working world. We're always on the look out for company leaders, founders and hiring managers interested in writing opinion pieces our Journal. 

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