How to Make Friends at Work and Get More Done

by Daniel Hannig

“I’m not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

In workplaces, the word “team” gets thrown around a lot. But there is more to being a team than just working together. Teams are built on a foundation of trust, shared values, and working toward a common goal. In short, teams are built on friendship. Friendship is what separates coworkers from teammates. When you work with friends, it becomes a lot easier to drive in on a Monday morning to dive into another week of frustrations and complications.

An emotional connection to the people you work with fuels employee engagement. People with friends at work are 27% more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel that their job is important. That sense of purpose feeds accelerated productivity as well. A study of 168 employees at an insurance company found that workplace relationships significantly increased performancewhen reviewed by superiors.

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As an employer, it is in your interest to help your employees foster friendships within your workplace. Organizing an effective orientation or onboarding week can not only help employees become accustomed to their role within your company quickly, but also helps new employees find friends who might feel as out-of-place as they do. Making friends within their first few weeks at your company will help new employees feel reassured about their decision to work with you. While new employees navigate the trickier aspects of their positions, they will have a support network of people that they can confide in and reach out to.

An extensive network of friends with a diverse set of skills can be an advantage to an employee within your company. Simply by knowing the right people who can accomplish a task, workers can sidestep bureaucracy and reporting lines within your company. For instance, if there’s a tight timeline to create a poster for a company’s charity event, an employee’s friendship with a graphic designer in the Marketing department could come in handy.

Inter-office relationships can help drive employees to produce greater quality work, too. Think of it this way: who are you more likely to be brutally honest with–your friend, or a coworker you see once a day at the coffee machine? Friendships establish a level of trust that enables employees to challenge each other’s work and make suggestions that improve its quality. Without that trust, employees could question the motives of coworkers that vocally critique their work. Knowing that the feedback they receive is coming from a genuine place, employees can focus on what they can do better, not on the source of that feedback.

For introverts, it might be intimidating to meet new people, especially in a professional context. It isn’t always easy to show your authentic self at work around coworkers you don’t know that well yet. Whether you’re a manager, or you’re looking to make new connections at work yourself, we’ve assembled some tips to make sure you have some company on your next coffee run.

17 ways to make friends at your office

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”– Dale Carnegie

  1. New to the office? Introduce yourself! Being careful not to interrupt anyone else’s conversation or private time, check your breath, smile, and say hi to colleagues you bump into at the coffee machine. Little moments like these can add up to make you feel like a friendly new addition to the staff.
  2. Don’t spend lunchtime at your desk. It might be nerve-wracking at first, but you’ll thank yourself later for grabbing lunch with colleagues instead of sitting alone in the same spot all day. It’s an easy opportunity to get out of your bubble and make time to get to know the people you work with.
  3. Learn your coworkers’ names, and use them. Simply beginning a conversation by getting someone’s attention using their name can make them feel like the center of your attention.
  4. Attend office holiday and birthday parties. They’re a great way to strike up a little conversation over some free cake.
  5. Bring in baked goods. When all else fails, a dozen donuts or homemade cookies will always draw people to your desk. If you’re less of a baker and more of a buyer, a trip to the grocery store will do the trick just as well.
  6. Organize a karaoke night for your coworkers. Karaoke (and the drinks that often accompany it) has a way of loosening people up and pushing them to show their true selves.
  7. Help where you can. If someone’s struggling–whether it’s with moving a box or figuring out how to get connect to the WiFi–offer your assistance. It’ll open up an opportunity for conversation while letting your coworkers know that you are someone they can rely on.
  8. Add some personality to your desk. Photos, knick-knacks, and other items that show your interests and character can make your workplace seem more warm and inviting, and might even help strike up the occasional conversation with a like-minded coworker.
  9. Create a group chat. Tools like Whatsapp and Slack allow you to add multiple people into one group chat for asking questions, making plans, and sharing funny memes.
  10. Ask open-ended questions as often as you can. You can spark conversations and learn more about your colleagues by asking them where they like to go on the weekend, what their favourite restaurants are, or if they have pets.
  11. Don’t miss work parties or team events. Though it’s sometimes hard to carve out more time to spend on work-related events, it pays off to make yourself available for meetups. It takes time and effort to build relationships, so take the opportunity when it’s provided by your office.
  12. Create a “twinsies” wall. It’s inevitable that two people in your office will show up to work wearing the same outfit. Commemorate these synchronous surprises and find common ground with your similarly-dressed coworkers by posting pictures of these special events on the wall.
  13. Start an after-hours club at the office. You could found a Cinema Club for all the office cinephiles to screen a movie once a week. If you find fellow foodies at work, you could assemble a supper club–a rotation of hosts to cook for and entertain the club at their home.
  14. Sign up for internal training. You can kill two birds with one stone by signing up for internal training sessions put on by your company. Not only will you learn some helpful skills (there’s always something new to discover in Excel), but you will meet people from departments you wouldn’t otherwise interact with.
  15. Consider following coworkers’ social media accounts. Depending on your office culture, this can either bridge a gap between future friends or be a big misstep, so use your best judgment.
  16. Don’t give up! Remember that there are a lot more pitfalls, partially-hidden social cues, and intricate constructs at play in an office environment. If you find yourself struggling, remember to relax and be yourself. Trying too hard to fit in isn’t just awkward: it also makes you focus more on your failures and overlook the small successes that can eventually build into friendships.
  17. Last but certainly not least: Don’t use the breakroom microwave to heat up your leftover fish. That’s a one-way ticket to the Alone Zone.

Building friendships in the office can mean the difference between a job that you appreciate but don’t enjoy and a workplace that you look forward to entering each day. Fostering an office environment that encourages coworkers to build relationships with one another contributes to a culture of engagement and committed teams of healthy and satisfied employees. You spend half your day at the office, so however you decide to approach it, invest some time into turning colleagues into friends.


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