If you’re worried about layoffs at your office or just want to feel a little more secure that you’ll have your job for a while, you probably think the wisest strategy is to keep your head down, work hard, and prove your worth. Guess you’ll be avoiding the break room for a while.

Not so fast.

Recent research by the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania assistant professor Lynn Wu suggests that social measures can be just as—if not more—important for your job security. For her study, Wu studied the electronic communications of 8,037 employees of large IT consulting firm over the course of two years. While she was analyzing them for several things, one of her most interesting findings was related to social interactions and job retention.

By looking for words such as “lunch,” “coffee,” “baseball,” and “football,” Wu was able to get a sense of how many conversations employees were having related to more social matters. She found that higher amounts of social communication like this was correlated with higher job retention—even more so than how much money a person brought into the company.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean that randomly throwing the word “baseball” in your emails to your boss is going to help you keep your job. Nor does it mean you can totally slack off on your work in favor of chit-chatting with your colleagues.

But, it does show that there is value—if somewhat intangible—to building relationships at work. So next time you’re thinking of just eating another lunch at your desk, consider asking a colleague you’d like to know better out to lunch. Instead of being all business all the time in your meetings with your boss, spend a few minutes asking her about her weekend plans or her family. And instead of always breezing through the break room to just grab coffee, stick around a few minutes to chat about last night’s game (or episode of The Mindy Project) with other employees.

It’ll make your job way more fun—and could just help you keep it.


Photo of colleagues talking courtesy of Shutterstock.