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Why having a work BFF may be the best thing for your career


By Kathleen Newman-Bremang, Refinery29

We spend more time with them than our *real* friends. We count on them for support and coffee runs and Slack chats. Having them makes us happier, healthier, and more successful... This week, Refinery29 celebrates Work Friends — the surprising benefits (and occasional complications) of professional friendship. Plus, the Canadian BFFs/business partners who are kicking butt right now.

I’ll never forget our meet-cute. She was wearing suspenders. I was rocking a bob weave like "Umbrella"-era Rihanna. I was two-weeks into my gig as a production assistant at a national music station, and I was escorting a VJ hopeful to the biggest audition of her life. We were both nervous newbies walking through the halls of our dream career destination. We didn’t know it on that walk, but the two of us would become best friends, “work wives” if you will, and carry each other through the highs (backstage chats with Lady Gaga, getting paid to talk about music, dancing at our desks) and the lows (general pre-live TV anxiety, horrible bosses, the impending end of music television) of our jobs for years to come. Think Jane, Sutton, and Kat of The Bold Type but with less glamour and more grinding.

Like The Bold Type, we were a group of women (and a few men) in our early 20s working in the trenches of a dying medium whose relationships extended beyond our proverbial cubicle walls. The weekdays (and sometimes weekends) of whispered venting, knowing glances, and advice-giving made our entry-level jobs more bearable and definitely more fun. We were allies, confidants and partners in ambition. It felt like success.

The average Canadian spends at least 40 hours a week at work (back then it was more like 50 to 60 for us), and work friendships are necessary to making that time enjoyable — and even more productive. According to stats and experts, having a business BFF makes you better at your job and is essential for a healthy work environment. A global study by Workplace Trends in 2018 found that 60% of employees surveyed in 10 countries say they would be more inclined to stay with their company longer if they had more friends. And two-thirds of women say socializing is a "major reason" why they work.

“Many of us are spending more time with our work families than our home families,” says Dr. Joti Samra, a Vancouver-based psychologist and the founder of My Workplace Health, a national online resource for job mental health and safety. Samra says studies show that Canadians who have friends at work are 27% more likely to report that they feel that their job is important and that they are the happiest when they are socializing at work. “We can go through tremendous adversity, stress, trauma [at work] but if we have strong social supports, we can not only survive but thrive,” she says. 

We can go through tremendous adversity, stress, trauma [at work], but if we have strong social supports, we can not only survive but thrive.

That’s the case for Tim Chan, a Canadian editor based in L.A., who emailed me after a night out with a colleague. “It helps to have someone who can relate to your day to day life,” he wrote. “My partner might be supportive, but if he's not working alongside me or if he doesn't 'get' my job, it's hard for him to really understand what I'm going through. Having a friend at work gives you someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to rant to, and above all, someone who can sympathize with your thoughts and opinions.”

But that kind of connection is something many millennials are missing out on. (This is shocking to me, a millennial, whose closest friendships were made through work.) A new study by Milkround found that 65% of 25- to 34-year-olds find it hard to make professional friendships and 48% have called in sick to avoid facing an uninviting office culture. Older generations don’t report experiencing the same struggles. The lack of these substantial work friendships may be correlated to the dissatisfaction millennials feel about their professions. And the more companies rely on digital interaction instead of in-person communication, the more employees feel lonely and disengaged, according to the Workplace Trends study.

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Career Magazine: Why having a work BFF may be the best thing for your career
Why having a work BFF may be the best thing for your career
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