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Having a close friendship at work not only gives you someone to debrief on the previous night’s The Bachelorette but has a range of other benefits.
According to Beyond Blue, a work bestie is a personal friendship with a co-worker in a professional space that mirrors the characteristics of a healthy marriage without the romance part.
It’s built on trust, support, honesty, respect and a shared sense of humour.
The benefits of a work-wife (or work-husband)
Dr Amanda Allisey, Senior Lecturer at Deakin University and a Principal Consultant at Maximus International says there are three benefits to having a work bestie.
“The research is consistent in highlighting the importance of belongingness and connectedness in the workplace,” she says.
“Longer-term, experiencing a sense of belonging can provide us with protection against a myriad of psychological and physical health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and physical symptoms such as headaches.”
In addition to the health benefits, that same sense of connection from having a work bestie benefits work performance.
“When we see ourselves as part of something larger and we identify strongly with an organisation and the people within it our work performance is likely to reap the rewards,” says Dr Allisey.
“Our commitment to the group leads to greater motivation to ensure the group’s performance. This leads to greater support for each other, both in terms of emotional support and work-based support such as providing information, feedback and guidance where needed.”
A US study echoes Dr Allisey. It found that a close relationship at work can lead to increased productivity, manage stress and prevent burnout, particularly in fast-paced and high stress workplaces.
Finally, benefiting employers, a bestie lowers turnover.
“We find that for teams that are made up of higher quality relationships, turnover is significantly lower,” says Dr Allisey.
The potential downside to having a work bestie
Work friendships are no different to non-work friendships, warns Dr Allisey. There’s always the possibility of conflict and, in some cases, the end of the friendship.
“As organisations evolve, you or your best friend may move on to other opportunities,” she says.
“Relationships can also deteriorate and where there are tensions in the workplace conflict can ensue. This can then impact work performance and can lead to disengagement for one or both parties.”
Dr Allisey also recommends that while friendships can lead us to become too familiar, you need to keep in mind that you are in a professional workplace and have an obligation to perform and behave in line with the organisation’s values and expectations.
Advice for if you one day need to break up with your bestie
If you need to cut ties with your bestie, for whatever reason, Dr Allisey advises to handle the situation in a mature way.
“This means keeping a handle on your emotions, maintaining respect at all times, and remaining focused on your work performance. Emotions may run high when dealing with a breakup of a friendship, and you should take time and space to deal with the emotions before trying to do so with your friend.”
You also need to maintain respect for your former friend.
“You should ensure you don’t talk negatively about your ex-best-friend with others in the workplace and you should maintain confidentiality for the things that you may have shared in the relationship,” she says.
Finally, your work performance should be front of mind, as Dr Allisey says that is the reason you were employed in the first place and you have an obligation to your employer to meet those expectations.