Work-Life Balance: Can Friends Help?

I have long advocated that the secret to keeping your head and your heart while keeping your job is to integrate your work
a meaningful, fun, and fulfilling life, instead of trying to balance work
life. As research has repeatedly shown, work friendships can be a key to that integration.  

The connection between employee engagement and work-life balance

To understand the role that friendships can plan in work-life balance (or, if you prefer, work-life integration), we need to understand the connection between work-life balance and employee engagement.   As a refresher, employee engagement is that magical, mythical state in which we feel emotionally and rationally committed to our work, and in which we feel inspired to give more effort that is required of us. This radical condition -- in which we actually find work enjoyable and fulfilling (imagine that!) -- has been linked not only to greater job satisfaction, but also to better business outcomes, such as profitability, productivity, retention, and even safety.   When we are emotionally and rationally committed to our work, we stop seeing the job as something outside of ourselves. We stop seeing work as that thing that interrupts our life, and instead, we see it as an integral part of our lives and our selves. There's the word -- integral. And that's how engagement at work leads to better work-life balance.  

How having a friend at work leads to better engagement

One of the most well-known methods for measuring employee engagement is the
. This survey measures employee responses to 12 items that have been linked to business outcomes. As you read them, feel free to note which statements are true or false for yourself. Also, see if you can identify how these employee engagement measures also relate to your own sense of work-life balance:
  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

But what if I don't want to have a best friend at work?

Question 10 kinda jumps out at you, doesn't it? "I have a best friend at work." Is this really necessary? Your best friend might be your college roommate or your doubles tennis partner or your AA sponsor, but do you really have to have a best friend at work in order to feel engaged and integrated?   My advice is not to get too hung up on the word "best." Instead, just focus on whether or not you have a friend at work. Is there someone at work you enjoy spending time with outside of work? Do you have a coworker who is into the same music that you dig? Is there maybe one colleague who repeatedly quotes the same weird movies you love? These might be the seeds of a work friendship that could help you achieve work-life balance.  

But what do friends have to do with work-life balance?

I teach five guiding principles that are essential to integrating work with a meaningful, fun, and fulfilling life, and as it turns out, friends at work can help with all five:
  1. Bring your whole self to work
  2. Nurture your sense of human
  3. Manage your energy
  4. Be flexible and adaptable
  5. Be an agent of change
  If you've ever had a friend -- and I hope you have -- you know that a friend helps you be more fully yourself, take the best care of yourself, and accomplish more than you thought possible. A friend at work -- best or otherwise -- keeps you true to yourself, to your values, and to your personal mission, and encourages you -- even if implicitly -- to bring all your experience, expertise, and eccentricities to the task at hand. In doing so, a friend at work can help you integrate work with your personal, family, and community life so that you feel more whole.   If you aren't convinced yet that having a friend at work is a good idea, scroll on for 11 other reasons why it's a good idea from the good folks at

Note: This is not an endorsement of OfficeVibe's products -- but only because I've never used them. They might be awesome, but I just think this infographic is swell.

If you're trying to keep your head and your heart while keeping your job, please check out the other free stuff on my website, and consider subscribing for a weekly dose of practical advice and research on work-life balance, work-life integration, and work-life alignment.
Photo illustration courtesy of tigger1/

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