Many people strive to have a diverse group of friends and acquaintances. While there are many reasons for this, new research published in Organization Science suggests a new one: Having a diverse set of friends outside of the work environment could help someone perform better at their job.

The results of the study showed that employees with a racially diverse group of friends outside of the company contributed more to the company. Supervisors ranked these employees higher in questionnaires about how much they built morale and worked beyond their given roles.

“They’re more likely to see their ingroup — the people they most identify — as a broader group of people, which includes those of different racial backgrounds,” said Steffanie Wilk, a co-author of the study and associate professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University, in a statement. “And we tend to help people in our ingroups.”

For the study, researchers interviewed 222 people who worked in customer service for large financial institutions. These participants were intimately involved with creating solutions for the company's customers. The employees were asked to list up to five people in their personal network along with their race. They were then asked to list 10 people in their own network at the company along with their race. The researchers found that participants who had racially diverse networks outside the company tended to have similarly diverse networks within the workplace.

Along with these results, the researchers also found there was greater trust between a supervisor and an employee when they were of the same race or ethnicity. Still, the researchers emphasized that trust can arise from similar values and beliefs too, which go deeper than race. This creates cohesion among employees, making for a better and more productive work environment. It was because employees made friends within their work communities that productivity rose. Employees will more likely go above and beyond for a friend they trust, rather than an employer they just work for.

The results show not only how befriending a diverse network of friends helps from a career standpoint, but also how aspects of employees’ personal lives transfer to their work lives. “Most of the research examining workers’ personal lives has focused on the role of family in work performance,” Wilk said. “Here we show how we carry our friendship patterns across the boundary of personal and work lives.”

Source: Lount R, Sheldon O, Rink F, et al. Biased Perceptions of Racially Diverse Teams and Their Consequences for Resource Support. Organization Science. 2015.