GIVEN the politics, competition and back-stabbing that can be found in most workplaces, you would think the office is probably the last place to find a best friend.
It's where you work, after all, and not bond. Friendships can lead to jealousy. They can lead to trouble. They can certainly wait.
But consider how many of your waking hours you spend at work and it may be hard to keep some workplace relationships strictly business.
And a buddy at work can do wonders. If you have a best friend at the coalface, you will likely enjoy going to work and be happier there. Camaraderie does help to improve morale.
"From a practitioner perspective, one should encourage relationships beyond just business," says Mr Adrian Tan, managing director of RecruitPlus Consulting.
Employees will become more engaged at work through bonding with others on a personal basis, he adds.
Indeed, cooperation and collaboration will yield the best results for an organisation and, therefore, the individuals in it, says Dr Elizabeth Nair, principal psychologist and chief executive of Work and Health Psychologists.
"Best friends in the workplace would have the added advantage of trusting each other, liking each other, and are therefore more likely to go the extra mile to help each other out when the work so requires," she says.
The controversial "Do you have a best friend at work?" is one of 12 key questions The Gallup Organisation asked in an oft- quoted survey on job satisfaction.
It found that people who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged with their jobs. These people are also likely to be more satisfied with their jobs and their lives.
Having a best friend at work just makes for a psychologically healthier workplace, says Dr Nair.
"It means you have at least one person who is interested and cares for you as a person, and is willing to hear you out when you need to voice your concerns, be it personal or work-related."
Sometimes, you may run the risk of mistaking the laughter and gossip as friendship when it is just a work relationship and nothing more.
If in doubt, remember that a friend is someone who will encourage you in life and not put you down.
Friends help us out when we need it, advise us when we are obviously doing the wrong thing and are concerned about our welfare, notes Dr Nair.
A friend is kind to us and will speak up for us when others may make unkind remarks about us in our absence, she says.
There will always be those who advise against mistaking a work relationship for a friendship. It's best to keep it separate, they say.
"Granted, negative aspects will come into play - jealousy, politics, favouritism, etcetera," says Mr Tan. "But these are inevitable when you are trying to build a strong bond.
"Just like how great challenges drive couples stronger together, the same applies in this context."
Of course, life goes on if you do not have a buddy at work but your day may not be as pleasant.
"Human social contact of a sincere trusting nature is important for our well-being. And work is where we spend the biggest portion of our waking hours," says Dr Nair.
This story was first published in The Straits Times on March 25, 2013
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