Episode 229 – The Value Of Friendships At Work


We often spend more time with colleagues than we do with family and close friends, which is why so many of our friendships are with coworkers. They share our experiences and can be a source of support when we’re facing challenges. Navigating friendships at work, however, can be tricky. Managers and senior leadership set tone and policy, and some close bonds in the workplace can be detrimental to engaging new hires, as groups can become cliques quite easily. I’m so glad to have an expert on the podcast today to talk about the social science of navigating workplace friendships.

Episode 229: The Value Of Friendships At Work with Lydia Denworth (@LydiaDenworth)

Science journalist Lydia Denworth delves into the science of social bonds, including those in the workplace, in her new book Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond. 

How Friendship Helps Your Company Culture and Workplace

Lydia’s research and her book show that friendship is critical for our health and well-being, both psychologically but also physiologically. She says people with better friends at work are likely to not be out as much sick and have fewer sick days and better retention. But it’s it’s it speaks to the larger power of friendship, which is that it affects our stress responses, our cognitive health, our mental health, our cardiovascular functioning, our immune system. It even affects how long we live. The more socially connected you are, the more friends you are not the actually quality matters more than quantity. So the more integrated you are, the more connected you feel, the longer you live.

Friendship in a COVID-19 World

If anything about this time with everyone working remote and sheltering in place, is that friendships are more important than ever before. I, personally, realized two weeks ago that I had not had a face to face conversation with anyone other than my husband daughter. I sat six feet apart from a friend while our kids swam and realized how alone I had been. I think a lot of us are feeling this way, and Lydia shares some ways leaders can help employees better connect. I also think we need to be intentional too checking in with family and friends making time for Facetime, socially distanced happy hours or Zoom calls. These make a difference. My friendship circle during this time has gotten tighter. It’s smaller but I think that’s for the better so I can really focus my energy on a small group. As HR leaders, we need friends too, and I know how hard it is to be in human resources and have friends at work. Outside of the uncomfortableness, Lydia makes a real case for friendship and personal relationships in the workplace for everyone including those of us who work in human resources. If you can’t be friends with coworkers, it is important to seek out like-minded HR pros to commiserate, connect with others.


Our coworkers may or may not become lifelong friends, but social science shows that we’re better when we have friends at work. As HR leaders, it’s important that we encourage socialization and demonstrate the benefits of doing so to senior leadership holdouts who still believe work is for working, not for socializing. Having these friendships at work makes better employees that are likely to be more engaged and stay with our companies longer.  I’m so glad for the opportunity to have Lydia on the podcast today.

Connect with Lydia Denworth on LinkedIn




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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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