Office work friends

What makes a good work friend?

With more workers now returning to the office, whether it be the old normal or the start of a new hybrid working model, how we interact with our colleagues in an office environment is pushing its way back to the top of our workday thoughts.

From slacking at work to leaving the office sink a mess, we all have colleagues’ habits that annoy us. Happily, however, we also have traits we value more highly in a colleague, from being a good listener to making new starters feel welcome.

To discover the most desirable and undesirable behaviours in fellow work colleagues, we surveyed over 1,000 workers that either work in an office, work from home, or work under a hybrid working model. Additionally, we have also revealed how much annoying co-workers and office friends leaving impact how likely staff are to quit their jobs.

The most sought-after traits in a work friend

Infographic: The most desirable traits in a work friend

Anyone that has been fortunate enough to form close bonds with people that they work with will understand the joy that a work friend can bring, along with how much more satisfaction and fulfilment they help you derive from your job.

As part of our research, we asked respondents how many close friendships they have made at work. More than nine in 10 (92%) of us have made at least one close friend at work, with 77% making multiple work friends. Interestingly, those numbers drop to 87% and 71% respectively for people primarily working from a home office. But what behaviours promote us from a work colleague to a work friend?

According to our study, the most desirable trait in a work friend is being a good listener. While 51% of males agreed this was a desirable behaviour in someone becoming their work friend, this figure rises to 65% for females.

Also featuring as much sought-after behaviours were making new team members feel welcome, helping their integration into the team and offering to help with work when you’re busy, all considered to be desirable by at least one in two workers.

More work-based activities that are considered the most desirable are quick replies to messages, giving colleagues your full attention during calls, checking in on how people are doing, and praising co-workers publicly.

11% of workers have quit their job when a work friend leaves

Infographic: Have you ever quit your job because of a work friend leaving

While many of us were forced to work from home during lockdown, a previous study that we conducted found that the aspect of office life that workers missed the most was seeing our colleagues and friends. Having a close friend at work can undoubtedly make your workday feel more enjoyable and fulfilling. But what happens when that work friend gives you the dreaded line, “I’ve handed in my notice”?

We wanted to find out how workers react in this situation. Our survey revealed how workers react in this situation, with 43% of workers having at least considered quitting their job because of a work friend leaving, with 11% going through with it.

Men are more likely to want to quit when a work friend leaves, with 50% considering it and 17% having done it, compared with 39% and 8% for women.

Additionally, younger workers are much more likely to consider quitting. Ages 16-24 and 25-34 are at 58% and 53% respectively, dropping down to 37% for 35-44, 32% for 45-54 and 25% for 55+.

People working primarily in an office are more likely to consider quitting, with 49% having done or considered it, compared to 40% of workers who primarily work from home.

One in five workers have quit their job because of an annoying colleague

Infographic: Have you ever quit your job because of an annoying co-worker

We also set out to discover how many workers have considered quitting their job because of an annoying co-worker.

Working with a colleague that you find annoying was revealed to be a stronger force in people choosing to quit their job over when a work friend leaves. While one in 10 workers have left their job because of a work friend leaving, that number doubles to one in five that have left their job because of an annoying colleague. In total, 53% of workers have either considered or followed through with leaving.

Although men and women are equally likely to consider quitting over an annoying co-worker, 23% of males stated they have done this in the past compared to 18% of females. Despite being the youngest demographic, 25% of Gen Z respondents claimed they have gone as far to leave their job because of an annoying colleague, the highest of any age group.

The most undesirable behaviours while working in an office

Infographic: The most undesirable traits while working in an office

Working alongside someone that your find consistently annoying isn’t the most pleasant part of working life, but is nonetheless, an extremely common one. Our research discovered that 79% of us have worked with at least one co-worker that we consistently find annoying, and 51% with two or more.

Eager to avoid being one of those people? The most undesirable trait while working in the office is a lack of personal hygiene, closely followed by people not doing their work. Age groups 16-24 and 25-34 agreed that a lack of personal hygiene was the most undesirable trait, but age groups 35-44, 45-54 and 55+ felt that people not doing their work was worse.

Having a messy desk or causing an untidy kitchen or communal area, interrupting people and coming into the office unwell were also found to be among the most undesirable traits. Business owners voted for leaving areas untidy as the most annoying behaviour (57%), closely followed by coming in the office unwell (55%).

The most undesirable behaviours while working from home

Infographic: The most undesirable traits while working from home

People who primarily work from home were found to be more likely to have never had an annoying co-worker that they regularly work with, 24% vs 17% who primarily work in an office. But that isn’t to say that there aren’t behaviours while working remotely that annoy people.

The most undesirable working from home trait was revealed to be a poor work ethic, with passive aggressive messages and taking credit for someone else’s work not far behind. When asked which of these traits you feel you’re guilty of yourself, less than 10% felt they applied to themselves.

Gen Z workers are much less bothered by a poor work ethic, with 39% finding it undesirable compared to 49% across the rest of the age groups. Instead, the most annoying trait for workers aged 16-24 were passive aggressive messages (48%).

The most common undesirable work traits

Infographic: The undesirable traits workers admit to being guilty of

Many people don’t consider themselves guilty of annoying behaviours, whereas others are far more self-aware. The most common behaviours that workers admitted to doing were working on something else whilst on a video call, and not having your camera on for calls. Nearly one in four workers hold themselves accountable of each behaviour.

Furthermore, the most common undesirable behaviour that workers at a director level admit to doing are messaging out of hours (30%), whereas business owners hold their hands up to being guilty of giving slow responses to messages (31%).

The most annoying workplace buzzwords

Infographic: The buzzwords people are most likely to find annoying

Finally, we presented respondents with a list of 23 common workplace buzzwords that people claim to find annoying. While opinions will naturally vary person-to-person, the phrase that the highest percentage of workers agreed was the most annoying, was “holibobs”.

Other buzzwords that are likely to lead to common frustrations include motivational phrases such as “teamwork makes the dreamwork”, “giving 110%” and “go the extra mile”, along with less formal sayings including, “happy hump day”, “happy Fri-yay" and “beer-o’clock”.

Can you spot the annoying behaviours?

We’ve also created a pair of brainteasers that challenge you to spot the undesirable traits in both an office and home working environment.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to reveal the answers.

Undesirable office traits illustration
Undesirable working from home traits illustration

How to be a better work friend

To summarise, the key findings that we discovered are:

  • 92% of the UK have formed at least one close friendship at work
  • The most sought-after trait in a work friend is being a good listener
  • 43% of workers have considered quitting when a work friend leaves
  • 20% have quit their job because of annoying colleague
  • The most annoying behaviour in an office colleague is poor hygiene
  • The most annoying behaviour in a remote colleague is poor work ethic
Undesirable office traits illustration - answers
Undesirable working from home traits illustration - answers


Brother surveyed 1,052 workers to discover their most desirable and undesirable behaviours in a work friend. 542 respondents work in a hybrid setting, 313 work primarily from home, and 197 work primarily in an office. This survey was conducted in September 2022.


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