Having friends at work can not only make the day go by faster. It can also lead to a longer life.
That's the finding of new research that found that a positive relationship with your co-workers has long-term health benefits.
Sharon Toker, a Tel Aviv University (TAU) researcher, said employees who believe they have the personal support of their peers at work are more likely to live a longer life.
"We spend most of our waking hours at work, and we don't have much time to meet our friends during the weekdays," Toker said. "Work should be a place where people can get necessary emotional support."
The researchers followed the health records of 820 adults who worked an average of 8.8 hours a day through a two-decade period. Those who had reported having low social support at work were 2.4 times more likely to die sometime within those 20 years.
The researchers controlled for various psychological, behavioral or physiological risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and depression, and administered a questionnaire to participants, who were drawn from a wide variety of professional fields including finance, health care and manufacturing.
The study found that employees' perception of emotional support at work was the strongest indicathy or of future health.
During the course of the study, 53 participants died, most of whom had negligible social connections with their co-workers. A lack of emotional support at work led to a 140 percent increased risk of dying in the next twenty years compared to those who reported supportive co-workers, she concluded.
Toker said many workplaces have lost their way in creating environments in which employees can create social relationships.
"Despite open concept offices, many people use email rather than face-to-face communication, and social networking sites that may provide significant social connection are often blocked," the researchers said.
Toker suggests companies create coffee corners where people can congregate to sit and talk, informal social outings for staff members; an internal virtual social network similar to Facebook or a peer-assistance program where employees can confidentially discuss stresses and personal problems that may affect their position at work. Anything that encourages employees to feel emotionally supported would be helpful, she said.
The study has been published in the journal Health Psychology. TAU colleagues Arie Shirom and Yasmin Alkaly and Orit Jacobson and Ran Balicer from Clalit Healthcare Services.