This research study explored the kinds of friendships co-op students make on work terms and how they are impacted by remote work. We also examined the impacts of these friendships on outcomes that are important to both students and employers.

Key points

  • On work terms, co-op students become friends with members of their host organization and with other co-op students.
  • Working in-person or hybrid is linked to greater friendship development for co-op students, while students who work remotely are less likely to develop friendships at work.
  • Informal socialization opportunities are important for the development of workplace friendships and these opportunities are reduced for those working remotely. This helps explain why friendships are less likely in remote environments.
  • Developing friendships at work is important to students. Those who developed friendships with other members of the host organization reported higher levels of job satisfaction and career development. Friendships with other co-op students were not linked to these outcomes.
  • Developing friendships at work is also important to employers. Students who made friends with other members of the host organization reported feeling more committed to their organizations, and more likely to return to those organizations in the future. Friendships with other co-op students were not linked to these outcomes.


  • Employers should consider offering at least some in-person work. Both hybrid and fully in-person work modes offer similar benefits to friendship development.

  • Encouraging informal socialization in remote work may increase workplace friendships and thus improve the quality of the WIL experience. This could be done through virtual social gatherings and may include things like quizzes or cooking demonstrations.

  • Given the importance of workplace friendships with organization members for both students and employers, organizations should support and encourage the development of friendships between students and members of the host organization. Offer opportunities for students to get to know organization members and group teams based on values and interests.


Workplace friendships are associated with several markers of successful work-integrated learning experiences, suggesting that we should care about where, how, and with whom students make friends at work. Putting effort into fostering the development of workplace friendships will have beneficial outcomes for both students and host organizations.

How we came to these conclusions

  • 977 co-op students who were on a work term in Winter 2022 completed an online survey.

  • They answered questions about work mode (remote, hybrid, or in-person), workplace friendships (with fellow students and organizational members), and selected WIL outcomes (job satisfaction, career development, organizational commitment, and conversion intentions).