Just as we make friends in school and college, we also make friends at the workplace, and some of them even become friends for life. Now, with ‘work from home’ (WFH), many people are missing their friends from the workplace.
In fact, most people would agree that without these friends, life at work would be quite daunting! If it were not for the conversations and camaraderie at work, our social lives would definitely suffer.
How blissful it is to have like-minded people at the workplace, whom we can call our friends. This realisation has dawned on many people after being forced to switch to WFH mode.
According to Reetu Raina, CHRO, QuickHeal, “You spend 9-10 hours in a physical or virtual work environment. There has to be something to emotionally connect you to the place, and when you have an outburst, you need someone to vent out your own feelings and emotions to.”
Raina recalls one of the toughest phases of her life when she was out and out supported by her colleague. It was during Raina’s tenure at Godrej, when her father was undergoing treatment. She was fortunate to have found her buddy by her side 24/7.
“It was so easy for me to talk to her. She helped me deal with the problem and move forward. Because of the personal crisis, there came a point when I could not focus on my work. It was my buddy who gave me a hand and helped me refocus. That helped me re-engage with work all over again,” she adds.
If your peers like you, and you actually have friends at work, then you should feel privileged and cherish these relationships. Having a few pals around the office is not only fun, but also professionally and personally beneficial.
Support outside family
While family members act as an integral support system, they do not understand work-life the way colleagues do. They are the ones who know exactly what one is going through at any point in time, since they share similar experiences. Hence, their suggestions may be more pragmatic and implementable when it comes to resolving issues and achieving goals.
Sometimes, at the workplace, one may accidentally meet someone with whom one can relate and vice versa, in some way or the other. “Many times, you face challenges at the workplace. However, these become easier to overcome if you have friends at work, who are able to relate to your problems well, because they are aware of the ecosystem,” explains Raina.
Research has shown that having friends at work increases the level of job engagement by seven times. In many startups, the founding partners are usually friends. Clearly, the notion that friendship at work comes at the cost of productivity is a myth. On the contrary, finding people of the right mental frequency – people who can candidly discuss each other’s strengths and shortcomings — can help add greater value to the organisation.
Having friends at the workplace gives a feeling of belongingness that connects employees strongly to their workplace. It assembles a sense of network and solidarity that enhances people’s confidence, making them more participative in work-related activities. Having a good time at work is known to significantly increase satisfaction.
In Raina’s words, “A close friend at the workplace ensures emotional balance and right decision making. We tend to speak to work friends more than we do with other colleagues because we feel a connection with them. This also keeps on connected to the workplace. Distance can be reduced if we have an emotional connection with our work buddy.”
Sharing of thoughts
Sometimes, while working virtually, one tends to become mechanical. One really wants to brainstorm and talk about a problem and think together, but not in a formal forum. There is no cabin, where one has to think twice before entering and speaking. All one needs to do is call up a work friend and speak one’s heart out.
Trust forms the core of any professional relationship. Trust is absolutely necessary to establish not only a reputation, but also a strong network of people who will help one throughout one’s career.
Face-to-face meetings, office parties and opportunities to socialise together after working hours can all contribute to the feeling that one can rely on what one’s fellow employees say and do, and that they will act for the good of the team and the organisation. There is this belief that they are trustworthy because this feeling has developed over time.
Emanuel David, director, Tata Management Training Centre, alludes, “Sometimes it is necessary to have someone you can trust at the workplace. Many who appear to be the sweetest of the lot may actually be ruining your image behind your back. But luckily, if you happen to find that one true buddy, half of your work problems are gone.”
How to make work friends
There are no ground rules in friendship, but the same cannot be said for professional camaraderie. As they say, the first impression is the last impression, but this does not fit in the work culture. Sometimes, one can end up being friends with the person one disliked the most.
It is easier to bond and make connections with people who have similar tastes and interests. One can start with asking open questions around their interests, such as their favourite movies or TV shows, weekend plans, lunch scenes and so on. This will break the ice and make the other person feel at ease to converse.
There are some who prefer connecting on social media at first before making the first move in person. They feel interaction on social media is a less confrontational way to get to know the co-workers.
There are also some people, with whom one finds it difficult to get along, not because they are necessarily toxic or bad, but because their interests and personalities are simply not compatible.
“We may often find ourselves attempting to force a friendship out of kindness or politeness, but most of the time such friendships do not work out. Friendships are best established naturally. They cannot be forced,” points out David.
Ultimately, friendships at the workplace are a matter of personal choice. Just as in the case of friendships outside work, it is not about quantity or the number of friends one has, but about the quality or depth of relationships. It dwells on several layers, founded on a deep understanding of when to step in and support colleague-friends, and when to step back and provide personal space.