How to Foster Friendships at Work, and Why It’s Good For You

Work connections improve your mood and productivity.

By nd3000/Shutterstock
By nd3000/Shutterstock

We spend a lot of time with the people we work with, whether we’re collaborating on projects virtually or in-person. But how often are we genuinely connecting with them? The truth is, probably not enough, though we should actively work on changing that — both for the sake of forming friendships and our well-being and efficiency at work. It really is all connected: Research shows that forming meaningful work relationships can increase our happiness, boost our productivity, and help us find a sense of community in the workplace. 

If you’re unsure how to begin, here are three small gestures you can take to practice your Microstep and help build stronger connections with your colleagues:

Thank your colleagues regularly

Studies show that practicing gratitude at work has been found to boost resilience and reduce stress on the job — and most importantly, help strengthen our relationships with those around us. After completing a project, write an email to your whole team expressing your gratitude, or compliment a particular colleague on how helpful they were throughout the process. Or offer to celebrate a job well done with a (virtual) coffee break! It’s easy to forget the power of a simple “thank you” during a busy workday, but it goes a long way. 

Ask how you can help

When everyone is busy with their own tasks, we can forget to give to others — and sometimes, the simple act of offering support can help you bond with your team. Make it a habit to regularly ask a colleague how you can help — sometimes, that might simply mean lending a listening, supportive ear over your lunch break. When others see that you care about their time, they take notice, and it can often lead to deeper conversations, too. Plus, research shows that offering our time conveys the message that we respect the other person’s workload, and makes people more willing to return the favor in the future.

Swap digital exchanges for in-person or phone conversations

It’s easy to hide behind our computer screens to communicate with one another efficiently (hello, Slack channels!) — but it’s also important to talk to your co-workers live when you can. Instead of sending messages to your colleagues’ inboxes, make a deliberate choice to swap some of those interactions for phone calls or face-to-face conversations. You can even make an event out of it on each other’s calendars. You’ll find that other conversations spark more seamlessly, and you’ll build more empathy in the process. You’ll also probably resolve work matters more productively than if it were handled behind screens.

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