Career Report

Bob Larson, CPC
Bob Larson, CPC

December, 2007 — Issue 94

The Value of Having Friends at Work

If you don’t think you have any close friends at work, there’s no better time than the holiday season to develop some new friendships or strengthen some existing ones. It might turn out to be one of the best and healthiest decisions you’ve made at your job all year.

Although close relationships at work are often frowned on by bosses, it turns out that employees who are friendly with each other are much better able to cope with office stress that many workers experience today, according to an article by The New York Times.

Researchers have long known that work stress can take a heavy toll on health. In fact, studies have shown that stress at work increases the risk for depression, heart attack and other health worries. But now a new report shows that the solution to work stress may be found in the cubicle right next door. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, employees who feel social at work are far less likely to suffer serious depression problems.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center studied data collected from more than 24,000 Canadian workers in 2002, the report pointed out. They found that 5 percent of the workers suffered from serious bouts of depression. Notably, men who endured high job strain were two times more likely to succumb to depression than men with minimal job stress. Women who had little decision-making authority had twice the depression risk compared to women with more power.

While those findings were consistent with earlier research on job stress, the Rochester scientists detected a surprising trend: People who said they felt generally supported by their colleagues and could lean on co-workers in a time of crisis were spared the rigors of job stress. On the other hand, men and women who felt little social support at work were two to three times more likely to suffer major bouts of depression, the study revealed.

“It’s more than just friendship,” Emma Robertson Blackmore, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester and the lead author of the study, told The New York Times. “Your family and friends give you support, but because they’re not in your work environment they don’t have the level of understanding that your work colleagues do.” Work friends, she noted, “get where you’re coming from.”

The findings are especially important to employers and managers who sometimes view fraternizing by colleagues as a distraction that interferes with productivity, the article pointed out. But Dr. Robertson Blackmore noted that because work friendships lower job stress and risk for major depression, employees who get along and support each other are likely to be more productive.

Clearly, depression at work reduces employee productivity, increases disability and absences and may lead to premature retirement, according to the journal report cited by the newspaper.

The data should also encourage workers who are reticent about getting close to colleagues to try to foster work friendships. “To a large degree, co-workers share the same kind of stresses,” Dr. Robertson Blackmore added. “Having someone who has that level of understanding is quite protective.”

News from BLK

We are delighted to welcome several new employees to the BLK staff. Kristyn Grasing and Rick Ruggles have joined us as Recruiter-Associates. Kristyn graduated Cum Laude from Ramapo College with a degree in Theater and was recently employed at a New York City talent agency. Rick is a 2007 graduate of St. John’s University. He majored in Sports Management and has held sales and marketing internships with several area sports franchises including the New York Jets.

Nery Marte and Jan LeBron have joined our data entry group and are also available to our clients who come to us seeking temporary office help. Nery has previous experience as a bank teller, while Jan, who is pursuing his college degree, has worked for a number of our clients performing data entry.