Either your coworkers have fused themselves into your life or you guys are “friendly, but not friends”. Which category do you fall into?
Research shows that we spend at least a third of our lives at work, if not more. This means work friendships are even more important to maintain. Unfortunately, after the initial phase of getting comfortable with your coworkers and having regular coffee-breaks at noon, the intimacy level between you and your colleagues will most likely plateau. With work-from-home, this trend’s adverse impact on our work friendships might result in a disengaged community.
In order to prevent that from happening, we came up with 3 tips to improve your work friendships, be it over Zoom or in real life.
1) First, set your boundaries for work friendships.
Work friendships are difficult to juggle precisely because work and friendship rarely mix well. The number one rule to handle that is balance, but that looks different for everyone. Figure out your personal limits for oversharing, gossiping, or small talk, especially when you need to deliver an urgent project. At the same time, work friendships shouldn’t be viewed as purely transactional.
Boundaries can be hard for people to establish, so strive for honesty and tact above all else. This will garner respect for the way you calmly navigate the blurred lines between work and friendship, and also signals to others that you can be both professional and sociable.
2) Notice, listen and pay attention.
The work environment isn’t the best for showing your vulnerabilities, and your coworkers probably feel the same. Read the subtle emotional signals that might be present, and show care for their wellbeing by listening and asking.
A simple “are you okay?” or “Is there anything I can help you with?” can go a long way when your colleague is feeling burnt out. Furthermore, this first step usually reaps rewards, and it’s likely that they’ll offer support during your tough times as well.
3) Strive to be present during mealtimes.
Sometimes, we just want to get away from work and nurse our lunch at a quiet, solitary corner. But mealtimes with your team are the perfect time to bond. Get to know your coworkers’ nonwork-related interests and build rapport with them.
At the end of the day, you don’t need to be best buds with your coworkers. But being on good terms will definitely improve the one third of your life by leaps and bounds.