Research shows that, after food and shelter, feeling a sense of belonging is a basic human need which often comes from meaningful friendships and relationships. Most of us spend anywhere between 8 to 9 hours every day at work (excluding commute time). So, we don’t really have much time to dedicate towards our social needs outside of a professional environment. Even when we’re not in the office, we’re busy managing family, errands, and our sleeping schedules whenever we can.
When you’re spending a majority of your time at your workplace, you should strongly think about fostering positive connections with your colleagues for your mental well-being, and overall productivity.
While your work responsibilities definitely take priority over socializing, it doesn’t hurt to maintain meaningful friendships at work with people around you.
Why Meaningful Friendships At Work Matter
According to a recent Officevibe study, employees who have close friends at work are happier and successful than the ones that don’t. In fact, 1/3 of them admitted to meeting one of their closest friends at their place of work. Not just that, 50% even said that they feel a closer connection to their organization if they have a best friend at the office to boost their morale. Additionally, 74% of women and 58% even men said that they’d turn down a high-paying job if the new workplace has difficult people as employees.
“While it can be somewhat tricky to navigate workplace friendships,” according to a Harvard research, “Ultimately, they’re worth it”. Companies, where employees are encouraged to forge meaningful friendships at work with their cubicle-neighbours or project-mates, noticed higher retention and a 35% increase in commitment to quality.
That being said, office friendships are known to decline with age. For example, Generation Z’ers and millennials have the highest percentage of workplace friendships (62%). On the contrary, people in their early-to-mid 50s show the lowest rates (50%). This might be due to the designation, levels of responsibility—including personal demands, like childcare.
Building meaningful relationships at work can help you get a letter of recommendation for your future jobs. Click to learn how to get a letter of recommendation.
So, how do you ensure you’re forging the kind of friendships at work that bring the best out of you? Here are a few pointers to get you started:
Join a planning committee
Remember the party planning committee from The Office?
We’re talking about something similar. Traditionally, office committees are usually cost-effective ways to encourage professional development credentials. This is done by recognizing exemplary employees and fostering better communication between the teams. You can choose to join a formal Business Development Committee. This could be a team that’s responsible for starting a dialogue on disseminating new business opportunities, managing customer relationships, and internal/on-ground brand marketing. Or go for something light-hearted and fun like The Good Times Committee at Information Experts that plans the social events (like a Thanksgiving Pot Luck, or a Halloween Party) calendar for the company annually.
Attend or organize after-hour activities
A lot of people unwind from the hustle-bustle of an average workday by grabbing a bite or a couple of beers before heading back home. If your company is not taking any initiative to drive ice-breaker sessions or activities after work, then take charge. Invite a few people you interact with every day on a relaxed outing.
Not to mention, you’re more likely to strike up conversations on more informal topics when you’re not at work. According to Friedman, you’re more likely to make friends with people you talk to non-work topics about. Of course, no one is asking you to be an open book! However, avoid droning on about your upcoming deadline and how you really feel about your boss. Instead, talk about the kayaking trip you’re taking next weekend or the newest hobby you’ve been investing time.
Start on a positive note
For most people, it’s comfortable and straightforward to find people who are into the same things as they are. When you look around, you’d notice that your immediate colleagues hold similar positions, are nearly the same age, or are at similar stages in their life (for eg: married with children, or in long-term relationships). All these factors come together to make for great starting points for work friendships. However, it’s important to remember that there’s always more to what meets the eye. You might come across someone you don’t see being friends with. But, take off your blinders of unconscious bias, and keep yourself open to all possible connections you can make with people from all walks of life.
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Avoid jumping straight to divulging personal information about yourself to a stranger you see at work. Instead, use your first conversations to display warmth, and skill to make a good first impression. That’s gotta be awkward for every, right?
In The End
The point here is to take the first step and try to build a connection with your work buddy. Why? Because they’d be there to understand when you have too much on your plate. They would be able to understand your bad mood because your manager blew off some steam on you. They would know how big your achievement is which probably your friends outside work or your beau won’t understand that well. You co-workers share similar experiences, similar environment and similar challenges as you. So, they could be a great support system for you when the tides are not in your favour.
And if you wish to find companies where you’d find great colleagues to work with, try Workship.