An average person spends about 9 hours every day working. This means the possibility of sharing experiences with friends at the office plays a huge role in increasing motivation at work. Younger millennials are more active in fostering friendships with colleagues compared to senior professionals. What then is the real virtue? While it is comforting, are workplace friendships important or just too risky?

Following are three pros and cons, you might want to consider while making friends at work. Let’s look at the pros first.

Positively impacts productivity: Research has shown that having friends at work increases the level of job engagement by seven times.  In many startups, the founding partners are usually friends. Clearly, the notion that friendship at work costs productivity is a myth. On the contrary, finding people of the right mental frequency – ones who can candidly discuss your strengths and shortcomings, can help you add greater value to the organization. 

Provides an outlet for shared experiences: In a survey of global workers, more than 26% admitted that colleagues who are aware of the context, provide a safe outlet to discuss events at the office. No two days are similar and the possibility of talking it out with someone with whom you have a deeper bond can give you the strength to sail through rough days. 

Develops a support system outside the family: While your family members act as your integral support system, they don’t understand your work-life the way your colleagues do. Your colleagues know exactly what you are going through at any point in time since they share similar experiences. Hence their suggestions might be more pragmatic and implementable in resolving issues and achieving your goals. 

Creates a sense of being connected: Having friends at the office provides a sense of belonging that connects you strongly to your workplace. It builds a sense of community and solidarity that enhances people’s confidence, making them more participative in activities at work. Having fun while working has been shown to significantly increase satisfaction.

Now, let’s take a look at the flip side and focus on the cons of workplace friendships.

It can be emotionally exhausting:  Maintaining a steady relationship with friends at work can get emotionally exhausting at times. Choosing between socializing and work responsibilities often creates dilemmas. Ultimately conflicts between two friends, especially if they are in the same department, can impact team outcomes negatively. 

It makes certain routine tasks difficult: Workplace bonding takes the greatest toll on a manager-team member friendship. It makes activities like delegation, performance evaluation and feedback sharing an uneasy affair. The other scenario is when a friend climbs the career ladder faster. Competitiveness between two people sharing informal bonds can lead to distrust.

It can make you vulnerable: During intense conversations, you might disclose too much about yourself. This gives rise to a sense of vulnerability. No one knows how the other party might use the information you confided in them. This is exactly the reason why many prefer to choose a “professional distance” at work.

Ultimately, friendship at the workplace is a matter of personal choice. Just as in the case of friendships outside work, it isn’t about quantity or how many friends you have, but about quality or the depth of relationships. It is a long-term proposition that matures through a deep understanding of when to step in and support colleague-friends, and when to step back and provide personal space.