Mixing business with pleasure has a positive impact on the workplace, new research reveals.

A survey by finance and accounting recruitment specialist Robert Half International found that 63 percent of employees think office productivity improves when colleagues are friends outside the office, with 57 percent of their supervisors agreeing.

According to the study, having good friends at work provides a social dimension to the workday and can make the job feel more enjoyable.

Pallavi Anand, a director at Robert Half, offers some suggestions on how to build strong friendships at work:

  • Invite a colleague to lunch: Enjoying a meal with a co-worker is a good way to get to know them in a more relaxed setting.
  • Join project groups or committees: Participation in these types of activities is a great way to build skill sets and get to know other people in your department.
  • Celebrate milestones: Recognizing co-workers’ birthdays with cards or decorations encourages camaraderie and helps everyone in the office to become a little closer.
  • Organize a potluck: A brief email to the department and a signup sheet is often all it takes to encourage employees to bring their favorite dishes to the break room and talk about their lives outside of work.
  • Don’t be cliquey: While favorite work friends can be a lot of fun, remember to invite others to join the group so no one at the office feels excluded.
  • Widen your circle: Look beyond your team or department for workplace friends. Volunteer to help with a work-related social event where you can meet new people.

While building work friendships can help build the quality of life at the office, experts at Robert Half also caution employees to avoid several pitfalls, including socializing to the point of not getting work done.

Becoming friends with the office gossip monger or the boss' vocal critics and pitching in to help a co-worker friend at the expense of your own workload also is discouraged, Robert Half experts said.

Robert Half International specializes in recruiting for accounting, finance, banking and technology professionals.

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who spent 10 years working as a newspaper reporter before working in public relations. You can reach him at chadgbrooks@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.

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