Workplace friendships play an important part in your job satisfaction and overall happiness. Unfortunately, studies show that camaraderie in the office is on the decline, and time pressures may be adding to the challenge.
The number of Americans saying they have a close friend at work dropped from 50% in 1985 down to 30% in 2004, according to a recent New York Times article. Meanwhile, a Gallup poll found that work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%.
How can you avoid feeling isolated at work if competitive pressures make it difficult to bond during the day, and your evenings and weekends are tied up with personal and family responsibilities? Turn things around by exploring these ideas for making friends at work even on a busy schedule.
Steps to Take on Your Own
1. Manage expectations. As important as professional relationships are, keep them in perspective. Your family and personal friends will probably remain your closest and most reliable connections.
2. Stay humble. It’s easy for busy bragging to become competitive. Remember that your peers are juggling their own obligations.
3. Track your hours. Maybe you can free up some time in your schedule for office events or other activities. Notice how much time you spend on unnecessary phone calls or internet browsing.
4. Assess the culture. Hitting roadblocks when you try to bond with your colleagues could be a sign that you’re a mismatch with the organizational culture. Decide if you can adapt or need to move on.
5. Focus your efforts. Maybe you’re naturally reserved or office cliques are walling you out. Think in terms of quality rather than quantity. Becoming friendly with one or two peers can still make a big difference.
Steps to Take with Your Coworkers
1. Offer assistance. Your coworkers are likely to welcome your overtures if you’re looking for ways to help them shine. Be generous with sharing your time, labor, and expertise. Volunteer for group projects and active committees.
2. Be vulnerable. While you’re entitled to your privacy, it’s important to let your colleagues get to know you. Look for appropriate opportunities to discuss your experiences and opinions. Use humor to relieve stress and boost morale. Express your appreciation for the things you like about your job.
3. Take advantage of technology. Emails and texting are a quick way to communicate when you’re pressed for time. Send your boss an interesting photo when you’re on a site visit.
4. Talk face to face. On the other hand, interacting in person allows for deeper and more memorable exchanges. If you telecommute, drop by the office for some regular hours each week.
5. Grab a bite. Food facilitates socializing. Eat your sandwich in the breakroom where you can chat with others. Pick 3 contacts you want to have coffee with this month and send them an invitation.
6. Mingle more. Instead of hanging out with the guy in the next cubicle, sit next to someone from another department at the next staff meeting. Do routine work in common areas where you can learn about what others are doing.
7. Travel together. Business trips are an ideal opportunity to escape the daily routine and talk with fewer interruptions. Maybe you can even find someone to commute with.
8. Join alumni networks. Now that employees change jobs more frequently, some larger companies are forming alumni networks to help such a mobile workforce stay in touch. Ask your employer about starting a group if you’d like to participate.
You don’t have to choose between nourishing relationships at work and pursuing your personal priorities. Use your time wisely so you can bond with your colleagues and still lead a balanced life.