On an average, office goers spend approximately 9 hours every day in the workplace. That is more than half your waking time!! The amount of time that you spend with your coworkers is almost as much as the amount you spend with your spouse or family.
Given that you spend so much time in the presence of coworkers and teammates, it is better to make friends with them rather than sitting isolated at your desk or cubicle. Plus, working with a friendly face has its own benefits. Various studies have revealed that work friendships boost employee satisfaction by nearly 50%. Employees are many times more likely to be fully engaged in their work. (Source)
There are various benefits of having friends at work:
- Higher sense of belonging in the workplace
- Have a support system whenever needed
- Loneliness is alleviated leading to higher productivity and motivation
- Less stress leads to happier and healthier individuals
- Increased transparency between teammates
Companies have already recognized this need and try to support it through team building activities such as game rooms, corporate retreats, etc. Despite these initiatives, it is not always easy to make friends at work.
How to make friends at work
Maintain a positive attitude:
No matter where you go, if you see a person who is constantly cribbing and complaining, you tend to maintain a distance from him or her. Don’t be that guy.
Smile and introduce yourself to people you haven’t met. It shows that you are approachable and easy to talk with. Always remember their names and use them in conversations. When you maintain a positive attitude and cheerful disposition, people like to be around you as it makes them comfortable. Just a simple interaction can help them absorb your positivity.
Help others when needed:
People really appreciate it when you go out of your way to help them when they need it the most. Even if it isn’t a part of your job description, a simple offer of help can do wonders to your work relationships. Just be careful that in your bid to please others, you do not compromise on your own responsibilities. Also do not do it so often that people start taking you for granted.
No more desk lunches:
Some prefer having a desk lunch but that is a big no when it comes to making friends. Having lunch with coworkers is one of the easiest way to bond with them and get to know them. This is not just limited to your teammates. There is also the added benefit of taking an actual break from work and stretching your legs which makes a significant difference to your productivity.
Desk lunch may be necessary when you have to quickly wrap up your lunch and get on to pending important tasks. But don’t make that a habit unless absolutely necessary.
Get away from your desk/cubicle:
The startup culture has made a dramatic change to the office space. The introduction of open seating or common sit out areas has made it easy for individuals to sit wherever they want and be comfortable. This is bound to bring you in contact with different individuals from time to time. People who may not be from your team and have never met, can be interesting nonetheless.
Never rush into things. As kids, we made ‘best friends’ with someone simply because they liked the same coloured crayon as us. We proclaimed that to our family that day itself.
Adults do not function that way. You will need to be patient with your approach. Do not start adding people to your social media accounts the minute after you have met them. Or start inviting them to weekend parties the first week itself. You appear desperate and a little off-putting when you do that. Also, it is never okay to start getting too personal too soon, if even a bit, at all. You only end up pushing people away.
Especially for Introverts: Find common interests
Not everyone is adept at making friends. Some find it hard to simply speak to individuals when they are in large groups. For introverts, even something like a team building activity can be tiresome. It takes a lot of toll on their mental energy.
However, there are ways to break into this circle and make yourself comfortable. Besides, team building initiatives may not always be your thing. But if there is an opportunity wherein there is an event related to your hobby, seize it immediately.
To elaborate, office retreats may not be everyone’s cup of tea. To hang out with colleagues while on a vacation, when that is what you do the other 5 days of a week? No, thank you! Now this does not mean that there is something wrong with the colleagues or they are bullies. It’s a matter of preference. For this person, an ideal vacation would be walking in a forest, going for a trek, reading a book on the beach or simply enjoying the view. He or she may enjoy solitude over other’s company.
If you enjoy a particular sport and there is a group from your office that plays it over the weekend, then request to join them. Your entire focus should be on the sport and enjoyment, while you are at it. This is also an opportunity for your colleagues to see a whole different side of you. As kids we made friends on the playground. Follow that same principle no matter what your age.
It may not always be a sport. It could be any common interest that you share with them such as hiking, karaoke, social work, etc.
The cons of having friends at work
As with everything, there can be a downside to having friends at work. The biggest of which is consistently being distracted. Not everyone has the same peak times of productivity. If your friends disturb you during yours or you disturb them during their time, work can be easily affected. Do not take too many ‘quick’ breaks for a chat or other indulgences.
Catching up on a regular basis can be detoxifying but a higher frequency can take the benefits out of the whole arrangement.
And lastly, do not get involved in office gossips or negative talks. Negativity is quick to spread and difficult to control. When you find that your ‘friend’ is complaining a lot without reason, either help them get back on track or slowly distance yourself from them.