How to navigate friendships at work

7 Jun 2022
Getting along with people you work with can make work much more enjoyable. 
In fact, according to a survey by Officevibe, 70% of people claim that friendships at work are the most crucial element to a happy working life, and 58% of men and 78% of women would refuse a higher-paying job if it meant not getting along with co-workers.

Aside from having someone around for an enjoyable chat, the same study showed a direct link between having work friends and engagement and productivity levels. Half of people who had a close work friend said this made them feel a stronger connection to the company and 35% said it made them more committed to producing quality work. 

However, getting along with your colleagues isn’t always plain sailing, so here’s our top ten tips for navigating authentic friendships at work: 

1.    Get to know your co-workers and ask questions 
If you have the option to go into an office, use this time to build relationships with your co-workers. Ask people about their weekend or what they’re up to in the evenings, go grab lunch together or take a coffee break. 
If your role is remote, why not organise a virtual team quiz, a coffee morning or Friday afternoon drinks session instead?  

2.    Empathy goes a long way
Being able to see things from your colleagues’ perspective and showing that you understand them can help build a stronger bond. 
As a manager or a boss, being empathetic is particularly important in order to strengthen relationships with your direct reports. Building rapport creates a sense of trust and understanding, which will enable you to manage the team more effectively. The 2021 State of Workplace Empathy Study found that 72% of employees said that empathy from an organisation or a boss increases their motivation. 

3.    Decorate your space
Decorate your desk space (or your virtual background if you are working from home) with items that show your personality, hobbies and interests, such as pictures of your family, friends and pets. This might spark conversations which could form friendships. 
For example, you might find out that a fellow colleague is also a dog-lover, has kids around the same age or even grew up in the same town that you did. 

4.    Ask for help, guidance, and opinions
No matter what level you’re at, it’s important to listen to your colleagues’ ideas and opinions and learn from their knowledge, skills, and experience. This won’t only make you better at your job, it will also make colleagues feel valued, respected, and appreciated – a great foundation for building a friendship. 

5.    Be on hand to help
If you’re a manager then supporting and guiding your direct reports will already be a key part of your role, but even if you’re not, you should still offer to help and support your colleagues. Even a small gesture can go a long way, such as making a coffee when someone’s having a stressful day or offering to proof-read a report. 
People want to befriend people at work who are team players, reliable and supportive. 

6.    Congratulate your colleagues
Give credit where credit is due’; it sounds obvious, but in today’s busy world, these simple gestures can slip our mind - but we all get a boost when our hard work is recognised, so next time your teammate delivers a strong presentation or achieves great results, be sure to send some short words of praise.

7.    Work and eat lunch in shared areas
If your workplace has a collaboration area, try spending more time there so you have the opportunity to interact with others. Make use of a canteen, dining or garden area if your office has one and strike up conversations. 
As an added bonus, studies have shown that taking short breaks from your desk can boost performance and increase productivity.

8.    Increase your network
Find out via LinkedIn or Meetup if there are any local networking events or groups you can join which are focussed on a particular professional interest. Many companies also have social committees which host after-work social events or team building activities. 

9.    Random acts of kindness 
Random acts of kindness can be a cost-effective and simple way to boost morale and make people feel appreciated. Bringing in sweets for everyone on a Friday or organising someone’s birthday present are just a few ways these gestures can build a greater sense of community. 

10.    Avoid office gossip
It’s common to get frustrated or stressed about things at work, and sometimes talking to a trusted colleague can be just what you need to solve issues and reduce stress. However, be mindful of any workplace interactions that slip towards gossip as this can damage team morale, spread negativity and cause disruption.

At Ingeus, we are passionate about supporting people into fulfilling, lasting employment. Visit our website to read more about the services we offer. 

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