Do you have a best friend at work? If so, there’s a good chance you’re more focused, passionate, and loyal to your organization than your friend-less colleagues — and you’re probably smarter, too.

Psychologist and author Ron Friedman points out in his book “The Best Place To Work” that workplace friendships are one of the strongest predictors of productivity, according to research, “but a lot of managers have a hard time taking the importance of employee friendships seriously,” he tells Business Insider.

“It’s because it’s easy to confuse the concept of friends at the office with the notion of fooling around,” Friedman explains. “Close friendships are perceived as a source of gossip, favoritism, and distraction. But that’s exactly the wrong way to think about what happens when we’re working with friends.”

It turns out that meaningful connections are vital to our psychological and physical well-being, he says. “In fact, many scientists now believe it’s impossible to perform at our best unless we feel connected to others.”

Friedman explains that we’re fundamentally social creatures. When we feel isolated or excluded, that experience is painful and psychologically taxing, damaging our ability to focus.

“Studies show that prolonged loneliness can have a crippling effect, beyond regular work hours,” he says. “Lonely people have a harder time relaxing and falling asleep. Over time, extended bouts of loneliness can lead to memory and learning deficits.”

We’re a lot more effective — and “smarter” — when we feel connected to our colleagues. “For one thing, it’s because we can pay less attention to whether or not we’re fitting in and bring our full attention to actually doing our work. We’re also more comfortable pointing out when a colleague is going down the wrong path. And we’re more willing to ask for help when we need it.”

Put simply, when we have friends at work, we have more resources for executing our work, which allows us achieve at a higher level, he concludes.

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