Forging friendships at work can be a precarious business. You probably spend considerably more time with your co-workers than even your closest friends outside of work but the threat of things getting political and potentially jeopardising your position at work can make it difficult to know where to draw the line.
One minute you’re comparing sandwiches and bitching about your boss in the staff kitchen, the next minute you’re competing for an internal promotion or accidentally spilling confidential information over post-work drinks.
But while work friendships must be approached with caution you shouldn’t rule them out altogether.
According to the 2013 State of Friendship Report, one in three adults met at least one of their closest friends at work so by keeping yourself to yourself you could be missing out on making some important lifelong connections.
In fact, researchers at Lancaster University found that friendships formed in the workplace are stronger and more emotionally supportive than any other as colleagues are better placed to offer each other emotional support at times of stress, which forges much closer ties.
"Workplace friendships may have particular resonance as they 'throws people together' to facilitate friendships which might not have developed elsewhere," says Anne Cronin, who led the research.
It is not surprising that research also shows workers are happier in their jobs and feel more motivated and engaged with their work and less inclined to leave the company when they have close work friendships. A Gallup survey found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%.
But forming social ties and close connections with your fellow workers can improve more than just your happiness at work. Studies suggest work friendships can have a positive impact on your physical and emotional health, too.
From living longer to having fewer sick days, here are seven reasons why it might be worth turning that water cooler chat into something more lasting.