So you’ve got a new job.
New commute, new environment, new colleagues. How are you going to play it? Show up, concentrate in the work and your career, try not to get drawn into any conversations you can’t get out of? Or might you try to strike up some friendships in the workplace to help the time pass?
Believe it or not, the second option may be best for your happiness, health, and career. It turns out that friendships in the workplace are actually a very good idea, and worth putting the ‘work’ into.
Those difficult getting-to-know-you conversations and awkward moments by the office teapot are opportunities to exploit: not because you’re trying to make connections to advance your career, but because you work better and feel better when you consider the people with whom you share your workplace to be friends.
They don’t have to become your BFF. You don’t even have to see them outside of the office. But there is a difference between a ‘work friend’ and ‘just somebody you work with.’ Just by being there, the former can give you the confidence to rise to challenges and to rebound from setbacks.
There’s actually research to show this. Just by interacting with your colleagues on a social level, you’re more likely to have a good day and less likely to become stressed.
Less stress and less loneliness mean better health. Your fibrinogen levels will be lower, which means you’re less likely to have a heart attack or a stroke. Your cardiovascular system will run better. Less stress also means a better work performance, a clearer mind, better relationships outside of work.
But how to turn those new colleagues into friends when you’re the fresher in the office?
It’s a delicate balance of being keen without being intrusive or over familiar. But if you’re bold, kind, and open, nobody worth your time will hold it against you for making the effort. You might begin by asking one or two colleagues to lunch – or at least asking where they go or recommend, as a way in. It can be easier to talk informally once you spend time together outside of the office.
For this reason, it’s also worth braving social affairs. Even if Friday night beers isn’t your thing, showing up to one or two can help you figure out who these people are – and if there’s anything else going on that you can be a part of. Even to have that shared experience of one evening out together can make the workplace dynamic more friendly.
And you can always bond on a more formal, professional level. Remaining open to collaborate, assist, advise, or ask for advice can be a great way for colleagues to show trust and vulnerability. That way, you each start to open your shells and get to know each other more deeply.
Some folk make it seem easy to make friends. But most people probably struggle more than you’d think. For those who do, there’s a handy new guide to making friends in the workplace.
Check it out before clocking on for your first day in your new role.