How To Befriend A Coworker (And Make It Last)
If there’s one thing that’s universally true about the human experience, it’s that we want to belong.
Yes, even introverts.
Yes, even in the context of work.
Belonging is a human need, inside and outside of your cubicle. Considering that an overwhelming one-quarter of your life will be spent working, it’s important to find comfort and joy within the walls of your office. This feeling of happiness oftentimes come from the social bonds you create with your coworkers.
When you’re friends with your coworkers, work will become more enjoyable and you’ll have a source of camaraderie when things at the office get tough and stressful. Being lonely at work has been shown to decrease productivity, but with friends by your side, motivation and employee satisfaction skyrocket as much as 50 percent.
A Gallup poll even found that employees with a best friend at work were 27 percent more likely to feel as if their job is important. These improved metrics are not only great for the company at which you work but are great for you.
When you’re loyal to your job, you’re less likely to bounce from opportunity to opportunity. After all, that would mean leaving a valuable friend behind. Perhaps most astounding is the fact that not having friends — including not having friends at work — has been found to significantly increase your risk of heart attack. If that’s not enough to get you working on coworker friendships, nothing will.
Now that you’re sold on the benefits of befriending your coworkers, it’s time to hatch a plan.
How to do it
Befriending your coworkers doesn’t have to be awkward. Just like any solid friendship, with a little time and effort, a genuine bond can be forged.
A good first step to take is adding your coworkers on social media. When you add your coworkers on Facebook or follow them on Twitter or Instagram, you get a window into their lives and interests outside of the office. Naturally, you won’t find common ground with every single coworker. However, you’re bound to find a coworker or two that share the same hobbies and passions.
Don’t let your efforts end there.
It’s important to take an interest in your coworkers off-screen as well. Once you can see a bit about their interests, you can use that information to start meaningful conversations. Whether your shared hobbies include travel, tennis or simply searching the city for the best margaritas, having a foundation on which to begin building a friendship will do some good.
Once the chit-chat transforms from small talk to more substantive interactions, you should suggest spending time together outside of the office. A common strategy is the tried and true coworker happy hour. Sometimes, these events are organized by your company. If they’re not, however, feel free to take matters into your own hands. Organize a happy hour at a restaurant or bar near work and invite the coworkers whom you’ve been befriending.
If happy hours aren’t your thing (or theirs!), don’t be discouraged. Another common way to create deeper friendships is to begin having lunch together. Taking time away from your desks to share mealtime and unwind with one another can end up taking your friendship to a more personal level.
How to maintain these relationships
Once you’ve truly befriended your coworkers, it’s important to maintain your budding relationship. Don’t settle for the initial blossom of a work friendship. Instead, treat your coworkers like any other potential friends; it’s worth the time and energy to nurture these connections.
Continue scheduling happy hours and work up towards more intimate time hanging out, like one-on-one brunch or a wine night with a coworker you’ve particularly clicked with. After all, there’s more to a true friendship than quick cocktails after work.
By truly playing on your shared interests and carving out time together on evenings and weekends, you’ll be showing your new friend that you value their friendship.
Why it’s worth the work
If this seems like a lot of effort, it is. But all great relationships — relatives, dearest friends and romantic partners — involve effort. By expressing interest in your coworkers’ lives and supporting them inside and outside the office, you can forge a friendship that offers the valuable benefits of coworker camaraderie.
Friendship quality predicts health more than any other relationship type as you age, and work friendships are no different. In fact, as time passes you’ll likely transition from seeing your coworkers as your “work friends” to just seeing them as friends.