The 30th of July marks International Day of Friendship, the annual campaign founded by the United Nations General Assembly to encourage us to reach out to friends, old and new. 

Every July 30th since its launch in 2011 the worldwide event recognises that friendship between individuals, countries and cultures inspires peace. 

It encourages us to learn about other cultures in our schools and workplaces and by contacting organisations in other countries. 

Simple suggestions on how to celebrate this year include sending a card with a personal message to a friend or becoming a pen pal with someone abroad. 

Another popular activity is to throw a dinner party, with all your pals brought around the table to renew their bonds of friendship. 

Charities and companies across the UK will also be joining in the celebrations with get-togethers in workplaces, village halls and community centres. 

It’s an important initiative. Research has shown loneliness can damage our health – increasing the risk of depression and high blood pressure. In the long term the associated stress can also cause heart disease and dementia. 

Some forward-thinking groups are already getting a head start. 

In Methold House in Worthing, West Sussex, for example, the brand-new Guild Care Friendship Club is bringing together people aged 70 or over who want to make friends over lunch in a safe and supportive environment. 

But friendship is important at every stage in our lives – as demonstrated in a new study that shows Friends, the US sitcom that finished 15 years ago, is still the favourite TV programme for young people in the UK. 

The Childwise report says the show’s focus on relationships is what’s most relatable to today’s teen viewers. 

Of course, many of us spend much of our daily lives in the workplace and so here, too, it’s important to recognise and appreciate the value of friendship. 

In a global Gallup survey of 15 million employees, 30% reported having a best friend at work. 

Its findings suggested this can actually boost business, adding: “Those who have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher wellbeing and are less likely to get injured on the job.” 

So how can having a work bestie improve our working lives and reduce our stress levels? 

Well, although most organisations have a proactive policy on mental health and an approachable HR manager, it’s most likely a co-worker will be the first point of contact and, through friendship, help remedy problems. 

And so, the first thing is to recognise the signs of stress in ourselves and in colleagues. 

Do you find yourself or a workmate often losing concentration or putting off important decisions? 

Perhaps there are signs of feeling inexplicably anxious, fidgety and being unable to relax? 

At this stage offering bestie-style support can help defend against the mental and physical problems caused by feeling lonely and experiencing burn-out. 

Often, we’re too embarrassed to open up to colleagues. On the other hand, a co-worker might be too scared of causing offence by asking if they can help. 

That’s why it pays to keep it simple: even the smallest of acts can have the biggest impact: make your co-worker a coffee; ask if they want to join you for lunch; be the first to offer praise for a job well done. 

A stroll around the park together during your break means getting out of the office – or away from a stressful situation – and gives you both the chance to get some fresh air, exercise and a catch-up. 

When chatting it’s vital to stay sensitive to moods, which may change frequently, and be careful not to be overly keen or invasive of privacy.  

If the problem is a heavy workload, encourage your bestie to speak to their line manager. If they feel unable to, discreetly and tactfully raise the issue yourself with HR. 

The best businesses know that employees must believe they can speak up and share their concerns without fear of being shut down or shut out.  

Importantly, let your bestie know you’re there should they ever need a shoulder, a sounding board or simply want to talk about last night’s eye-opening episode of Poldark. 

If there is a persistent problem, you may want to suggest they seek the help of an external support network or chat to a professional on an advice line. 

The best employers recognise it’s only natural for people to want to build meaningful connections and you can find these companies on wm1jobs.  

So, if you’d like to reach out to new friends and enjoy a new job, why not use the International Day of Friendship to launch your career with the latest vacancies from wm1jobs?