work wives: why friendships at work matter

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Circa 2014, John Travolta had a very tiny beard. It was an audacious little cluster of hair on the very precipice of his chin, seeming to challenge anyone who looked at it directly. My friend Rosie and I came across a photograph of John Travolta’s tiny beard one day at work, and it brought us great happiness (we often wrote about celebrities for work, so it was technically within our remit to be looking at famous beards online). Something about this facial hair undid us, and we could not stop giggling. Real tears of joy were cried. Every time someone went to the bathroom or boardroom and left their computer unattended, we’d change their screensaver to a picture of John Travolta’s tiny beard. It was a wondrous, ridiculous break in the otherwise stressful, if great, monotony of office life.

And that can be the glorious and unmatched joy of having a work wife. Rosie was my best friend in the office, or my “work wife”, as we call it. Working long hours together, we probably spent more time with one another than our boyfriends, parents or pets. We debriefed on office politics over noodles at lunch, told secrets on a 3pm trip to the biscuit tin, backed each other up in meetings, read each other’s work loyally, chatted about ideas, checked on each other’s integrity, monitored our mental health and made each other laugh. Having that friendship at work single-handedly changed the entire experience of coming into the same office each morning. It brought me joy and solace – which should be more important corporate values than they currently are.

Research shows that having a friend like Rosie actually made me better at my job. Having a best friend at work can increase our productivity, our creativity, our intuition and our job satisfaction. People with friends at work take fewer sick days and have fewer accidents, making them a genuinely good business investment. Total Jobs in the UK surveyed more than 4000 employees and 100 employers to find out exactly how valuable our work spouse relationships are – and the results were convincing and delightful. Sixty per cent of those surveyed said they looked forward to work because of their close friendship in the office. Thirty-nine per cent said they felt more productive (despite all that time you spend on Slack discussing Love Island or debriefing on your latest Tinder date). Seventy per cent of employers believe it’s healthy for their employees to have friendships at work, with just 10 per cent saying they thought it was a distraction. Eighty per cent of employers said that friendship made their workplaces a happier place.

Read more at Future Women.