It’s a common rule for many people: “I don’t take friends home from work.” But in a piece over at Quartz and highlighted at Science of Us, writer Catherine Baab-Muguira makes the case for being friends with your co-workers — and honestly, it’s a pretty good one. Even if you’ve been advised time and time again not to get too friendly with your colleagues in order to keep that professional line clearly drawn, it might be worth considering the alternative.
For what it’s worth, I do understand the case for not taking friends home from work. One of the downsides to living in the age of the internet is that the lines between our work lives and our personal lives tend to blur a lot more now — for example, not only do we have access to our work email outside of office hours, we’re often expected to check and respond to our work email outside of office hours, too. It’s getting to be a problem; research has found that folks whose employers expect them to deal with their work email even when they’re not at work are more likely to suffer from emotional exhaustion and higher levels of anticipatory stress.
With these lines getting increasingly unclear, it’s understandable that you might want to try to keep them distinct in whatever ways you can — and one thing that you do have control over is whether you hang out with the same people all day at the office, and all the time when you’re not at work, too.
That said, though, Baab-Muguira lays out a compelling argument for having at least one friend at work. Writing about a “small, tight-knit group enrolled in a year-long training program,” she notes:
The program itself was interesting and worthwhile — a deep dive into stock-market analysis — but the reason I loved it was the hang. We studied together, collaborated on projects, and went to happy hour to hash it all out. There was always someone who wanted to go out for lunch or grab a coffee or tell me about a book I should read. The competitive elements of the job were enjoyable, enlivening rather than soul-killing, because everyone got along so well. Going to work was, for the most part, fun.
Indeed, she writes, “This situation was compelling enough it shaped my next couple of career moves, which were internal rather external; despite some occasionally tempting offers to leave, I’ve stayed with the company.”
This, of course, is an example of the whole thing going very, very right; if, however, you happen to work in a dysfunctional or toxic workplace, then yeah, you’ll probably want to keep as much distance between it and the rest of your life as you can. But if you work in a place that might be conducive to getting friendly with your co-workers, there’s plenty of research to back up why it might be a good idea to give it a shot. Consider the following: