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Employee Engagement

A new study by Olivet Nazarene University examined the dynamics of workplace relationships and found that most never leave the confines of the office.

The University surveyed 3,000 Americans who are employed full-time across 21 different industries. What they discovered was a fascinating portrait of the social bonds that make up the modern American workplace.

The majority of the individuals surveyed said they considered at least one person they work with a “friend,” however, only 29-percent would call any of their colleagues a “best friend.” When asked to categorize their coworkers, only 15-percent of colleagues are considered to be real friends. On average, Americans define 41 percent of their coworkers as just that—coworkers. They consider 22 percent strangers, 20 percent only-at-work friends, 15 percent real friends, and two percent enemies.

Olivet Nazarene University’s data shows the industries with the highest average number of friends are transportation (10), followed by finance and banking (8), accounting (8), and marketing/advertising/public relations (7). Industries with the fewest friends include legal and real estate, each of which tallies only three friends per respondent, on average.

But are people happy with those numbers? According to the study, yes. Seventy-six percent report they’re satisfied with their coworker relationships, of those remaining, 20-percent indicated they’d like more friends, and only four-percent said they had too many.

The study also examined how workspaces influence work relationships, finding that those who work in a variety of office spaces, like raveling salespeople, have the highest number of work friends on average.

Coworkers feel increasingly comfortable talking about personal matters. Of those surveyed, the majority said they talk to colleagues about romantic relationships, health issues and conflicts with coworkers. Roughly one out of three people said they discussed financial issues with their peers at work and 68-percent said they discuss salaries.

When people leave one job for another, their office relationships tend to fade. Only 18-percent of people said they stayed closely in touch with their former work friends, while 82-percent said they stay in touch on a little or barely at all.

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