University News

Research on Friendships and Employee Well-Being from CWB Doctoral Student and CWB Senior Scholar Published in Journal of Vocational Behavior

by Whitney Hopler, Communications Manager

Lydia Craig, doctoral student at our Center for the Advancement of Well-Being (CWB), and Lauren Kuykendall, CWB senior scholar and an associate professor in Mason’s Department of Psychology, researched how friendships impact employee well-being. Their research “Examining the role of friendship for employee well-being” has been published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior.

In their abstract, Craig and Kuykendall note that, “The present studies are the first to consider the effects of both work and non-work friends on well-being and to test a mechanism for such effects.”

Craig explained that she and Kuykendall sought to fill a gap in well-being research through this research. “Research in industrial-organizational psychology has focused to a great extent on the work/family interface. This research has revealed important insights about how work and family roles can interfere with and benefit each other. We know that many employees struggle to manage the demands of work and family, and that this struggle can undermine well-being. But our field has focused less attention on other non-work relationships and activities that employees value – such as friendship, hobbies, and community activities. With this project, we sought to start to fill this gap by highlighting the role of friendship (at work and outside of work) for employees’ well-being. We focused on friendship in light of evidence that friendships, despite being highly valued, may be particularly difficult to prioritize in the face of immediate demands from work and family.”

For their research, they conducted two different studies, said Craig. “In the first, we found that supportive friendships enhance well-being beyond the effects of one’s spouse and family and have a particularly strong effect on employees’ positive emotions. In the second, we looked at both work-based and non-work-based friendships. We found that supportive friendships at work enhance job satisfaction and positive emotions at work, while supportive non-work friendships have cross-domain benefits, promoting well-being both at work and outside of work.”

Key findings from their research are:

• Supportive friendships predict well-being beyond the effects of family support.

• Supportive friendships influence general well-being via self-esteem.

• Supportive work and nonwork friendships influence well-being at work.

• These effects are mediated by self-esteem and organization-based self-esteem.

“Together, these studies suggest that our field may be remiss to focus exclusively on work and family, particularly because many adults struggle to prioritize friendships in light of competing demands,” Craig said. “They also have important practical implications for individuals who have to make decisions about how to invest their time across roles. In light of the benefits for well-being, we suggest that employees should consider not only how to balance work and family demands, but also how to cultivate and sustain supportive friendships.”