Colleague, co-worker, desk buddy? How we feel about the people we work with, often for the best part of 8 hours a day, can have a huge effect on our wider wellbeing
In fact, being friends with the people we work with is actually good for business – a 2015 study by professors at Rutgers University found that having what they called “multiplex relationships, driven by having a lot of co-workers who eventually developed into friends, significantly increased employees’ performance, as judged by their supervisor.” Couple that with the fact that loneliness is at an all-time high in the UK – almost one fifth of the population report they are always or often lonely* – and it’s never been a better time to connect with our colleagues. But how exactly should you go about it?
How to… make a genuine connection
This may sound like a dating manifesto, but making genuine friendships at work does require a similar level of effort. Be prepared to put yourself out there to take office small talk to the next level. Inviting someone to grab a sandwich, or walking to the station after work, are both easy ways to make tentative workplace connections more meaningful. Discover what common ground you have outside of work, if any, and make this the basis for progressing the friendship.
How to… show professional vulnerability
Showing your emotions at work can be taboo, especially for women, but it’s actually starting to be viewed as a strength. Recent research, as illustrated in this 2014 Forbes article by Emma Seppala, a Science Director at Stanford University, shows that being more vulnerable, that is having the courage to be yourself at work, can actually improve workplace connections and make it easier to relate with the rest of your team, even when you’re the boss.
How to... befriend a work ‘stranger’
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do”, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously said. This is infinitely easier if you like the people you’re doing it with. And while it’s natural to feel an affinity with PLUs – people like us – striking up a conversation with somebody unexpected from a totally different department, outside of your usual work circle, can reap rewards. Plus, when we forge more diverse friendships at work it gives us a greater perspective of the company, organisation or workplace as a whole.
How to… bring people together
We have a long-standing tradition at Liz Earle every Friday to down tools and share something tasty (usually a cake, but sometimes something less sugary!). It gives people from different departments the chance to meet and chat, and for everyone to take off their ‘work hats’ for half an hour. Designating this time every week not only gives people something to look forward to, it’s also a chance for co-workers to forge friendships outside of official business duties.
How to… buddy up for wellbeing
An employment report produced by Gallup in 2016 found that “60% of women in the US workforce rated a greater work-life balance and better personal well-being as a "very important" attribute in a new job”. For the best of both worlds − greater fulfilment at work and a better work-life balance – combine the two. Join a lunchtime run club or pre-work yoga class to help improve your headspace, and spend more time with likeminded work friends, or even meet new ones.