9 ways to make friends at work (and why it's a good idea)
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The friends you make at work can remain a part of your life long after you've left the organisation where you met. Making friends in the workplace can also make your job and theirs much more pleasant, which can increase your motivation and even your performance. Understanding how to make new friends as a working adult can therefore be a valuable ability. In this article, we discuss the importance of making friends at work, nine steps showing how you can do this and some extra tips for managing your workplace interactions.
Why make friends at work?
There are several reasons why you may want to make friends at work and this is unrelated to the friends you might already have elsewhere. Your workplace and outside friends might mix happily, or you might prefer to keep them separate. The primary reason for making friends at work is the amount of time you spend there. Many people work a standard 40-hour week, meaning eight hours per day in one place, which is a significant part of your time.
The benefit of developing friendships in the workplace is that it's likely to make your time there more enjoyable, as you can share your experiences with people you like. Similarly, if you're enjoying a significant amount of your time more, then it's likely to also improve your mood outside of work. You might go home from work feeling happier and less exhausted, and you may even look forward to seeing your work friends again the next day. Another reason is that the relationships you develop with colleagues may remain part of your life for years afterwards.
How to make friends at work
Many workplace friendships appear to develop naturally or spontaneously, whereas others require a little effort. If you want to acquaint yourself with your colleagues and develop friendships, consider following some of the steps below:
1. Take the initiative
You may find that a lot of people at work are just like you, meaning they'd like to make friends but aren't sure if the feeling is mutual. If you take the initiative, this can be a relief to them and they might engage with you quite quickly. This can be especially useful if you have shy colleagues who might be naturally hesitant about initiating social interactions. You can do this in a straightforward manner by introducing yourself to others and asking them what their role is.
If you've already become acquainted with everyone in your office or department, look for opportunities to meet people elsewhere in the organisation. You might find opportunities to meet them in common areas or through digital communication channels.
Related: Important workplace social skills
2. Learn people's names
A simple way of demonstrating your interest in getting to know someone is to remember their name and use it when addressing them. A lot of people have difficulty remembering someone's name when they are first introduced. You can avoid this happening by repeating their name out loud when you first meet them. It can also be helpful to repeat their name in your head a few times while visualising their face to help ensure you remember it.
3. Smile and make eye contact
Another way of showing genuine interest in getting to know someone is to use positive body language like eye contact and smiling. Other things that can contribute to making someone feel more relaxed include turning to face them when you speak and adopting a more relaxed posture yourself, such as by keeping your arms uncrossed. It's important to be genuine when you're smiling or otherwise interacting with someone. Try to focus your mind on how interesting it is to meet new people. Once this becomes a habit, you may find that you're instinctively able to help others relax.
4. Ask questions
Asking questions can demonstrate to others that you're genuinely interested in getting to know them. It can also help them relax, as thinking of answers is generally easier than thinking of questions to ask. Initially, try to ask questions that are related to work, as not everyone at work is going to be willing to talk about personal matters. You could ask them what their role is, how long they've worked at the organisation, what their fondest workplace memory is, whether they've met the CEO or owner, or simply something you genuinely want to know about the workplace.
5. Offer to help
Feeling overwhelmed or overworked can be a key cause of stress in the workplace, which can result in demotivation and feelings of being unhappy. If you're able to do so, offer to help those around you, even if it's with something minor. You might be able to ease their stress and help them meet their deadlines and responsibilities. It also demonstrates that you care enough to dedicate some of your own time to them, which alone can make them feel happier. If you do help them with a task, then working with them on it might help you form a bond of understanding.
6. Bring in food or drink
If you want to show several people that you care, a good way of demonstrating this is to bring in food or drink to the office for people to share, like coffee or pastries. It's usually a good idea to bring in items that are widely enjoyed and are the least likely to contravene people's dietary restrictions.
This could be a box of doughnuts, croissants, a variety of sandwiches with different fillings or simply some fruit. You might leave it in a common area with a note indicating that people can take what they wish, or you might hand them out individually. The latter option can also present you with an opportunity to chat with people, and it could encourage others to repeat this gesture in the future, thereby making the office environment more friendly in general.
7. Offer to make the tea and coffee
If your office has the facilities for staff to make themselves tea and other hot drinks, then you can offer to make it for someone else while getting your own. This can open up conversation in a natural manner and present the opportunity to learn about their preferences, such as a favourite drink and whether they have milk or sugar. Alternatively, if someone else offers to make the tea for others, you can volunteer to help. You might find that someone volunteers to come and help you if you offer to make the tea for others.
8. Go out for coffee or lunch with colleagues
Once you've met a few people at work and developed a friendly relationship, a good way of developing this further is to organise spending time together. In many workplace settings, you may have the opportunity to go out for lunch or to get coffee. This can be a good opportunity to bond with someone outside the formal setting of the workplace. It can also be an opportunity for a group of people to get to know each other simultaneously in a more relaxed environment.
9. Attend work events and activities
Many organisations have events or activities that can become opportunities for staff to meet each other. These might be social hours just after work, group lunch outings or something like an office yoga class. Attending something like this can be a great way of meeting diverse people from all around the organisation, not just within your immediate environment.
Tips for managing workplace interactions
Below is a collection of some important tips to remember when you're interacting with people at work:
Respect people's boundaries: It's important to recognise that some people are not interested in making friends at work and prefer to keep their private and working lives separate. If you encounter someone like this, respect their choice and try to encourage others to do so.
Be careful when sharing: When you get to know someone new, it's important to share only an appropriate amount of information. Sharing too much can cause awkwardness or make others feel uncomfortable.
Avoid controversial topics: When you're in a conversation with your colleagues, it's usually a good idea to avoid topics that might be controversial or inappropriate, as these might elicit unwanted reactions. For example, it's often a good idea to avoid speaking about politics, religion, income or matters of office gossip.
Maintain your own balance: Even if you've met some interesting people at work, a healthy work-life balance is important. Remember to maintain contact with friends outside work and other people who are important in your life.
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