The idea of friendship applies as much to our personal lives as it does to our professional ones. According to research collated by Coworking Specialists Instant Offices, having friends in the workplace makes you more engaged and happier.

In fact, it is so important, 66% of British workers say having a friend increases job satisfaction. Over half (57%) of UK employees also say that having a “best friend” at work makes their job more enjoyable, increasing their productivity and creativity. The benefits of having friends at work speak volumes, however Instant Offices navigates the fine line of being a friend and setting boundaries as a boss.

Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR at the Instant Group says


“As a manager, it is important to get to know all your direct reports and show interest, care and concern for all team members equally. There are commercial as well as human reasons for this. Also, in a work environment, it can be the team members who are actually most different to you that are your most valuable, as they provide you with alternative thinking and/or challenge which drives a better outcome. Therefore, valuing, trusting and treating all team members equally is important to enable a team to perform at its true potential.”


The Rise of Workplace Friendships

It seems that for many employees, making work friends and becoming more familiar with their managers is already the norm. A 2020 UK study showed that 76% of employees have a positive relationship with their immediate boss, and 77% report the same with their colleagues.

Benefits of Friends at Work

Employee performance is significantly enhanced when co-workers develop a strong friendship. As a boss, there are benefits to becoming closer to your employees: 

•Increased trust: Knowing an employee well can translate to increased levels of trust and understanding in the workplace. 

•Loyalty: Strong bonds outside of work can forge an increased sense of loyalty at work. 

•Support: A mutual friendship makes it easier to ask for help, can increase knowledge sharing and improve confidence. 

•Better communication: Maintaining communication within a friendship can translate into better communication professionally too. 

•Happiness: Being friends and forming bonds with employees enables you to speak freely, share frustrations and successes, and generally increase feelings of happiness.


10 Ways to Be the Boss and a Friend

•Talk about the ‘power shift’:

Be open about the changing dynamics. Don’t assume the uneasiness will disappear if you ignore it, or that the change in roles will naturally balance themselves out.

•Be fair:

You don’t have to downplay your friendships with employees, but do be sensitive to the feelings of other staff members. Stay consistent in your treatment of everyone so that no one feels like favouritism is an issue.

•Get to know all your employees:

Personal preferences shouldn’t get in the way of building good relationships with all your employees. Make an effort to get to know everyone.

•Avoid gossip:

Gossip between colleagues is one thing but as the boss, it’s your job to avoid this completely and know when to step away or speak up.

•Find someone else to talk to:

Avoid the temptation to share too much information with your work friends. Instead, find a suitable colleague to discuss relevant matters with. You can also speak to a neutral party, like a mentor who has no ties to your organisation.

•Be okay with not being liked:

You’re not always going to be popular and that’s something you have to accept. Resolve conflict where you can but always remember that it’s up to you to make the tough decisions.

•Don’t always take yourself too seriously:

Just because you’re the boss it doesn’t mean you can’t take some downtime with your team to unwind and relax. Working with people you respect, and who respect you back, will ensure that socialising and friendships are easy to separate from working relationships.

•Mind your language:

It’s easy to fall into “friend mode” with employees you’re close to, but remember at work it’s important to also command respect, so you must find a balance.

•Hire the right people:

Invest in a solid recruitment strategy to find potential hires that fit your company culture. Employ people who naturally understand and can navigate the line between friend and boss without pushing the boundaries.

•Don’t cross the line:

Be aware that not every employee will want the same dynamic or be comfortable with a more familiar relationship.