As humans, we're wired to want connections with the people around us. And if you work in an office, that probably means you'll want to establish relationships with your peers. Whether those relationships evolve into actual friendships, however, is a different story.

An estimated 95% of working professionals think befriending their coworkers is a good idea, according to LinkedIn, and 63% have developed friendships that extend well beyond the confines of an office. But while there are many benefits to befriending your colleagues, you should be aware of the drawbacks as well.

A group of men and women around a table, smiling. A dry-erase board stands in the background, and office items, including papers and a computer, are spread across the tabletop.


Work friends: a mixed bag

When you have colleagues who are also friends, you get a dose of added support that could prove instrumental to your success on the job. In fact, 67% of employees say it's helpful to have people in their lives who really understand their work, schedules, and stress levels, all the while being able to learn from one another in a professional sense. And 66% of workers say that having friends at the office gives them a sounding board for job-related problems.

That said, being friends with colleagues can pose some challenges, so much so that 79% of workers have concerns about socializing with their peers. Specifically, 50% feel that life at the office could take a turn for the worse if a personal spat were to sour a friendship. Furthermore, 38% of employees worry that their work friends might inadvertently disclose information about them that they wouldn't want made public in an office setting.

There are also workplace performance issues to consider. For example, if you're friends with a colleague who wants to join your team or get put on a project you're managing, but you don't feel that he or she is qualified, things could quickly get uncomfortable all around. Furthermore, you might struggle to give your colleague honest feedback for fear that it could damage your friendship.

Not surprisingly, a large number of professionals who do develop friendships with colleagues also keep those relationships in check. A good 48% don't get too personal with their work friends, while 43% limit the topics of conversation they'll engage in. Furthermore, 38% make an effort to be less emotional in front of their work friends than they are with their regular friends.

Striking a balance

Clearly, there's much to be gained by having work friends. But be careful about how close you choose to get to those friends, especially if you're on the same team or collaborate closely as a matter of course.

It's not a bad idea to set boundaries with work friends, especially when it comes to sharing personal information that could hurt you if it were to come out in a professional setting. Also, if you're going to develop friendships with your colleagues, you might choose those who you don't think you'll ever be in a position to manage, or be managed by. It's one thing to get close to the people around you at work, but it's another thing to develop a friendship with someone you have to oversee or answer to on the regular.