Remember the first-day-of-school jitters? Nervously contemplating where you’d sit at lunch or who you’d play with at recess? Sometimes, joining a new company can bring back those same feelings.
Whether you’re starting a new job or trying to connect with others while working remotely, making friends isn’t always easy — but it is important! These relationships can have tremendous benefits for your mood, productivity, job satisfaction and day-to-day engagement.
Let’s look at some data. Research shows that people who have a best friend at the office are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work than people who don’t. Among people who don’t have a go-to office buddy, only one in 12 are engaged in their job. The same study found that three hours of socializing a day can reduce the chance of having a bad day by 10%.
Making friends on the job has other potential perks, especially when you’re new. When you make connections at work, you widen your circle of available resources. Colleagues can answer questions and offer insider advice, which reduces your learning curve and helps you settle into your new position more quickly.
It can also help to have a group of friends to commiserate with on those days when the job gets a little stressful. Another benefit of developing a professional network? If you decide to leave the company at some point, you have ready references.
Now that you know why making friends at work is a good move, let’s take a look at some simple yet effective ways to break the ice.
How to Make Friends at Work
Everyone takes a different approach to meeting people. Thankfully, there are several ways to connect with colleagues. Make sure to pick the strategies that best fit your networking style and personality.
It sounds basic, but introducing yourself is the first step toward creating positive relationships with the people in your office. When you start your job, you’ll likely meet with several different people during onboarding and training. It’s the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself and get to know a little bit about each person.
Be sure to have a few conversation starters ready to keep things flowing. Here are some ideas.
- How long have you been with the company?
- What’s your current role, and how do you see us partnering together?
- What did you do before you took this position?
- Where’s the best place to grab coffee or meet for lunch?
- What’s the story behind the ________ I see in your background? (A great option if you’re meeting virtually!)
These questions may lead to other topics of conversation, and you’re likely to hit on something you have in common that can help fuel future conversations and build a good friendship.
Pro tip: If you’re meeting a lot of people in a short period of time, jot down a note or two about any connections you make. Something as simple as “Carrie, HR, grew up in the same town,” can help you remember your conversations and show how tuned in you were to what they were saying the next time you interact!
Bring in coffee or treats
If you go into the office, it’s almost a sure thing your teammates will enjoy morning coffee and doughnuts or afternoon treats — snacks are the ultimate ice breaker! Set up food in a common area with a note thanking everyone for helping you get acclimated. Your new co-workers will likely stop by your desk or send a message to thank you, both of which are great ways to get a conversation started. Plus, who knows? Maybe you’ll spark a trend of people supplying treats on a regular basis! Before bringing in food, it’s a good idea to ask your manager about any company restrictions or policies.
Meet co-workers for coffee or lunch
Getting out of the office for an hour or so is a great way to recharge and break up your day. It can also be the perfect opportunity to get to know your colleagues socially. Taking a short walk or a grabbing coffee gives everyone in the group a chance to talk about interests other than work. If your position is remote, host a virtual lunch or coffee break — they can be just as fun and beneficial.
Work away from your desk
If your work environment offers common areas for collaboration, opt for a change of scenery. You’ll not only make yourself more visible, but it will also be easier to strike up conversations with other employees.
Offer to help
Stepping up to help with a project or take on a new challenge is a fun way to learn the ropes and meet new people with friendship potential. Plus, it can win you brownie points with your team members — and your manager — when you offer to take something off their plate.
Attend company-sponsored events
Try to attend as many work-related events as you can. Virtual and in-person happy hours, baby showers or other events are great ways to connect with other employees both during and after office hours. When people attend a fun event, they tend to be more relaxed and social, and conversation trends towards personal interests.
Plan activities outside of work
Consider taking the lead on planning team get-togethers. Organize a potluck lunch, a picnic in a nearby park or a community service activity. Drop the invite into email or chat and hit send! You’ll find you can learn a lot about your teammates through casual conversation in a fun environment.
Invite a co-worker to take a break
A few 10-minute breaks throughout the day can boost your energy level and give your brain a rest. Plus, breaks are an easy way to sneak in a little exercise! Consider asking a co-worker to join you. Whether it’s a quick stroll around the building or a few moments of meditation, these quick meetups could be the start of a great routine with a new work buddy!
Participate in your company’s volunteer program
If your organization sponsors a corporate social responsibility program, offer to coordinate your team’s effort. Volunteering and joining in on community service projects are great ways to get to know your co-workers and help your community.
Managing Friendships in the Workplace
Now that you know how to make connections at the office, you may want to think about how to manage these new relationships. To achieve the perfect personal-professional balance, it’s important to set clear boundaries to help ensure you remain professional, follow company ethics and get your work done. Setting some boundaries can also help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Set personal time and topic limits
Chatting with colleagues keeps you motivated and engaged — just be aware of the time you spend socializing. If you have a friend who loves to chat virtually, you may need to mark yourself as “busy” or close out the chat function to minimize distractions, especially when you’re up against a tight deadline.
Something else to be mindful of? The topic of conversation. If you find yourself whispering with a co-worker or looking over your shoulder while messaging, it could be a good sign to change the subject! Some topics may not be work appropriate and better left to after-hours or with a friend outside the office.
If you’re the manager, be a manager first and a friend second
As a leader, there will likely be times when you must deliver tough feedback or maybe even let someone go. That’s easier to do when your direct reports are not your best friends. Strive for developing office relationships that are friendly, but professional — and avoid special treatment.
Cheers to Making Friends at Work, Even if They’re Just “Work Friends”
And there you have it! Remember, office buddies not only keep you energized and motivated throughout the day, they can also make not-so-great days more bearable. Plus, they can encourage you to stay productive and do your best — two qualities of a star employee!
Looking for more career-related advice? We’re here to help! Check out our Career Growth Resources for help with answering tough interview questions, setting career goals, creating work-life balance and so much more!
This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.