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Work from Home Limits Work Friendships

These close work friends, Catalina María Gomez Caycedo (foreground), Aleena Rupani, Henry Crabtree, and Michael Watkins meet in Crabtree's London apartment. (Photo provided by Catalina María Gomez Caycedo via AP)
These close work friends, Catalina María Gomez Caycedo (foreground), Aleena Rupani, Henry Crabtree, and Michael Watkins meet in Crabtree's London apartment. (Photo provided by Catalina María Gomez Caycedo via AP)
Work from Home Limits Work Friendships
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And now the Health & Lifestyle report from VOA Learning English.

Working from home has its benefits, but it also has its problems. One of them involves workplace friendships. Working remotely, or away from an office, may make it harder to form friendships with coworkers.

In the United States, only two in every 10 employees say they have a “best friend” at work. That information comes from a Gallup opinion study done in June 2022.

Jim Harter is a workplace and well-being researcher for Gallup. He said, “We (are) seeing in the data that younger people in general are feeling more disconnected from their workplaces.”

Harter added that if young people are “less connected to their workplace,” they have fewer chances to connect with their co-workers. It may be difficult to “develop those kinds of friendships that they might have had in the past.”

Also, he said there is a difference in levels of trust among work friends. “It (is) a lot more difficult to establish close kinds of relationships when you (are) more distant,” he said.

Take for example, Crystal Powers. She is a medical records manager in the state of Wisconsin. Powers began a new remote job in February 2022.

Powers is the only manager hired since the pandemic who oversees full-time remote workers. Team building has been difficult, she said. She has not yet met in person two of the five people she oversees.

She said, “It (has) been more challenging than it has been in past positions to … earn the trust in me as a supervisor, because they still do (not) really know me.”

She also has found it hard to connect with other managers online. Still, Powers said, she likes working remotely.

Harter, from Gallup, said that having a best friend at work has become even more important since the rise in remote and hybrid employment.

For many employees during the pandemic, workplace friendships offered social and emotional support at a critical time, Gallup found from their recent study. This is especially true of parents, educators and frontline workers.

These workplace friendships also benefited employers. Gallup research shows that employees who have a close friend at work are much more likely to:

  • interact with customers and work partners,
  • get more done in less time,
  • support a safe workplace with fewer accidents,
  • and create and share ideas.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr. is president and chief of the Society for Human Resource Management. He said many good things come from work friendships.

First on his list is worker retention – a company’s ability to keep good workers. Next on his list is peace in the workplace. He said work friends can help to keep each other calm when disagreements happen.

More companies, he said, are actively supporting workplace friendships. His organization has nearly 500 employees around the world. One of its programs centers around something that often brings people together -- food. The organization buys lunch for people who invite a new person to share a meal with them.

Taylor said, “… we’re trying to get people together who have different...lived experiences, backgrounds, et cetera. The idea is, you go to lunch with a stranger and make them a friend.”

Henry Crabtree is 26 years old and lives in London. He said that when you have close work friends, “You’re not only working with each other but for each other.”

He was hired in December 2021 onto a small marketing team for a software company. That company has workers around the world.

“Seeing each other outside work, especially when colleagues are from other countries,” he said, really helps develop these friendships.

And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Leanne Italie reported this story for the Associated Press. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English.

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Words in This Story

remotely – adv. from a distance

benefit – n. something that produces good or helpful results or effects or that promotes well-being

hybrid – adj. consisting of diverse components for work, such as part work from home and part work in an office

data – n. factual information (such as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation

challenging – adj. a situation that has difficulties to overcome

manage – v. to direct the professional work of others

frontline – adj. the most advanced, responsible, or visible position in a field or activity

lunch – n. a usually light meal especially one taken in the middle of the day

colleague – n. a fellow worker or professional


Do you have close work friends? If you do, how do they affect your work-life?

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