Most of us will spend a large proportion of our adult lives at work, especially now that many of us are retiring at a much later age. Since work takes up such a large part of our time on earth, it makes sense that we should work hard to build friendships with our work colleagues, in order to make the workplace a happy environment. One key contributor to being happy at work is having friends there, but that doesn't just make it more enjoyable - it actually helps productivity, creativity and increases engagement, as well.
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The recent Friends in the Workplace survey squashed the myth that most employees are preoccupied with salary levels above all else, and showed that for more than 60% of respondents, happiness at work was far more important. Those people who did rate salary as their prime concern also acknowledged that a workplace where friendships and happiness were given the space to develop could provide significant benefits to companies. More than half of those surveyed said that their work life was much more enjoyable due to the fact that they had a good friend at work, around a third said that an office friendship had helped them to become more productive and over one in five responded that it boosted creativity levels.
A friend in the workplace doesn't necessarily have to be your very closest friend, but if you do share your working day with someone you can trust and rely on, both of you will find the working day much more palatable. Of course, making friends at work isn't always easy, but by following a few simple tips, you could find you have new friends in no time at all.
In many offices and workplaces, there are all sorts of social events and after-hours clubs that you could join, in order to meet colleagues socially, and make friends. These might include book clubs, sports events or children's activities. If your company doesn't have any social groups like these, it's just as beneficial to have lunch with colleagues or travel together whenever possible.
Take small steps
Making friends at work doesn't have to involve grand gestures or overt shows of generosity. Simple things like greeting colleagues in a friendly way at the start of the day, or offering to make the tea, can break the ice and form the basis for a long-lasting friendship. A true friendship can't be rushed, so take time and let things progress naturally.
Find what you have in common
Listening to colleagues can help you to discover what things you might have in common. Talking about these things will help build a rapport between you, with the conversation flowing easily if it's about things you both enjoy. It's easy to spot clues that will help you to strike up meaningful conversations if you pay attention. For example, if your colleague goes to the gym after work each week, try asking about their fitness routine. If they go to the cinema regularly, and you also enjoy films, talk about the latest releases and the films you've both seen recently. Topics of conversation that are neither work-related nor too personal in nature are great for gently building a genuine friendship.
Keep work friendships in the workplace
Think very carefully about suggesting any kind of activity outside of working hours. It might be tempting to suggest a meal out one evening, for example, but such an invitation could easily be misinterpreted. Suggesting an occasional lunch together is a much better idea, as is walking to the station together after work.
It can be tempting to reveal all sorts of personal details about your life, in an effort to make friends with someone. In fact, this can have the opposite effect, and can actually deter people from seeing you as a potential friend. It's far better to stick to topics like sport, holidays and pastimes, at least until you get to know your new friend properly.
Don't get drawn into negative interactions
Every workplace has its fair share of office politics and gossip, but if you want to build a meaningful friendship with a colleague, it's important to steer clear of this kind of negativity. Don't be tempted to try to join the office clique, or to spread gossip in the workplace, and focus instead on engaging with colleagues in a simple, positive way.