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Work Friends Are Important, Even When You Have Employees Who Don’t Go Into Work
By: Judy Kneiszel

Whether you’re working remote or on site, chances are you’re dealing with a lot more people virtually than ever before in your career.

For some workers, that means the days of the office potluck lunch, the companywide picnic, or simple watercooler conversation are over.

Does that mean the days of forming friendships with people you meet through work are over? Let’s hope not.

In a survey of 550 professionals ages 20 to 70, the Harvard Business Review found:
  • While only 40 percent of the respondents “definitely” or “probably” have a best friend at work, nearly 79 percent of them consider a coworker to be a friend.
  • Those with a best friend at work were around 30 percent more likely to report being (often or almost always) happy compared to those without one.
  • Those without a best friend were 37 percent more likely to be (often or always) lonely.
The survey takers concluded that people who have friends at work are generally happier, more energized, and more productive than those who don’t. But, how does one make friends in the modern workplace?

5 Tips for nurturing work friendships remotely

1. Start up a conversation. When communicating online — whether via email or chat app — it’s tempting to keep things strictly business. But to nurture workplace friendships, first ask your colleagues how they are, how their evening or weekend was, or whether they have plans for an upcoming break before launching into work talk. If you know you have something in common with a colleague — like a shared hobby or favorite TV show — share a meme, or ask a question about it. They’ll probably appreciate the thought and the brief distraction.

2. Work to keep the friendship alive. If you don’t hear from someone for a while, don’t assume they don’t care. They’re probably just busy, but could be struggling with something. Simply reach out and try to get the conversation going again. Even if they don’t have time for a lengthy gab session, your work friend will know you’re thinking of them.

3. Improvise. If one or both of you is working remotely, you can still meet for coffee or lunch virtually. Reach out, make time, and get something on the calendar.

4. Be vulnerable sometimes. Showing someone else that you are vulnerable can help them feel less alone. Instead of just sharing facts about your day, tell them how events made you feel. The same goes for asking questions: Instead of asking what happened, ask, “How do you feel now?” or “What’s annoying you right now?” or “What’s been the highlight of your week?”

5. Don’t just focus on the good stuff. If everyone is relentlessly positive, it’s difficult for people to share other emotions, like frustration, stress, fear, boredom, or loneliness. Strive to have friends view conversations with you as a safe place to discuss emotions, good or bad.


 
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