Work BFFs! Why You Need Them & How They Help
> Having a work BFF makes us happier and more productive
Every office has them.
You hear them giggling out loud at whatever latest joke has been shared on the group text.
You see them huddled in the corner of the kitchen for their daily coffee break.
You even see them in each other’s photos on social media.
Work BFFs. What a strange breed.
While most of us try to build a working relationship with our colleagues while subsequently keep work life and real life as separate as possible, these people seem to be actual friends.
And on the occasion that one from the group decides to leave the company, you can be sure the others will follow soon after.
Their bond seems to transcend the friendly watercooler chat and regular working hours alike.
But surely work friends are supposed to be just that - work friends. Aren’t they?
While we’re not about to start posting pictures with our colleagues on Facebook, we do value friendship here.
We advocate taking your whole self to work, which means sometimes you’ll feel stressed, upset or downright miserable. Other times, you’re in a really good mood and nothing can bring you down - much to the annoyance of the office Moody Mindy.
In either case, it’s all about being “fully there” at work, in mind and body.
It also means that sometimes you’ll really connect with people - those who have similar interests or a similar background to you. In other words, people you would actually be friends with if you met in real life.
But the thing is, the office is real life.
We go through the whole range of emotions at work just as we do in our personal life. Sometimes, you may even need a (literal or metaphorical) shoulder to cry on.
Most of us have experienced some kind of rough patch at work.
It could be from something work-related, like workplace bullying or layoffs, or it could be completely unrelated, like the loss of a loved one.
Either way, just because you’re at work, it doesn’t mean you can turn off your emotions and switch into “work mode” - it’s not that easy.
During these difficult times, work can really suck.
The feeling of tears welling up for no apparent reason as you stare at your computer.
The lump in your throat when someone asks “Are you sure you’re okay?”
The internal mental debate of whether to share your struggles with your line manager or not is yanking your attention from your projects.
The inability to focus on work or get a single thing done is just making things worse.
We’ve been known to employ a range of coping mechanisms - from calling in sick to crying in the bathroom to screaming in the car.
In times like this, work can feel like the loneliest place.
And not just that, but it’s a lonely place where you need to keep up appearances and make it look like you’ve got everything under control.
And sometimes, pretending to be fine actually makes everything much worse.
That’s why we feel it’s so important to have a support system at work.
Having someone to talk to about what’s going on whenever it starts to get a bit too much is a lifesaver in the office. It can help us to feel less alone and more supported during difficult times.
So, while we’re not about to get matching tattoos, we’re here for the whole work BFF thing. Not the annoying, cliquey type - but just good friends to make working life a little bit easier and a little more fun.
But, is it really a good idea to blur the boundaries of your work life and real life?
And how do you suddenly make good friends at work if you’ve been there for ages?
Read on for all the answers.
Why We Should All Have A Work BFF
If you like to clock in, keep your head down, get your work done and clock out, then you might not be liking the direction of this article. But stay with us.
While keeping your headphones on at all times or picking up the pace when you’re approaching Cindy in the corridor as she looks ready for a “quick chat” might seem like you’re protecting your time and energy, it could actually be the wrong approach.
Studies show that having friends at work is actually good for us. And not just because we have someone to cover for us when we’re - ahem - sick.
1) They make work fun
We spend a looooooot of time at work. Like, really. One third of our lives to be exact.
We spend more time with colleagues than with our family, our partners or our friends.
That’s a pretty scary thought.
But it also means there’s plenty of time to build lasting bonds with people.
And in any given office, there’s a huge range of characters. Sure, there are many who you’d happily never speak to again should they leave the company.
But there are also likely to be some people you really connect with.
And, as they say, time flies when you’re having fun, so having friends at the office can make our work days go faster.
2) They understand us
While workplace stress exists wherever you are, each company has its own specific stressors, challenges and political landscape to navigate.
The only people who can really understand what it’s like working in your office are the other people working in your office.
How many times have you tried to explain a particular situation at work to a family member or friend and been met with “Oh I’m sure it’s not that bad” or “Oh I’m sure Dave isn’t that much of a dick.”
When we have friends at work, they know that it is that bad and yes, Dave really is that much of a dick.
We can share our burdens without first having to set the scene and give loads of context, just for the other person to still not get it, or worse, think we’re overreacting.
3) Your work will improve
Gone are the days when employers would ban their minions from fraternizing beyond the level of conversation needed to get the job done.
In fact, now employers are basically begging for their employees to make friends. Words and phrases like “culture” and “team building” are thrown around like tradeshow freebies.
Companies are even paying for you to make friends, with parties, team celebrations and Friday happy hours all coming out of the hard earned company profits.
This isn’t just because they care about your wellbeing and just want you to be happy at work (sorry). It’s because they’ve seen the research.
Loneliness reduces motivation and productivity. Having a good social life at work actually improves the output of your work.
4) You’ll like your job more
We know, we know, some days it’s impossible to imagine liking your job at all, let alone liking it more than usual.
But this study found that people who have a work BFF (not just friends or a close friend) are seven times more engaged in their job. Seven times!
And this deeper engagement with your work makes you feel more valuable. The elevated feeling of value then results in even more engagement. It’s a virtuous cycle of feel good emotions.
5) You’ll be happier
What we care about most is your wellbeing so, to us, this is the most important reason we should all have a work BFF - it makes you happier.
They make it so that Mondays mornings aren’t as bad and you have something to actually look forward to on the first day of the workweek.
Plus, having a lunch buddy and coffee/tea sipping partner makes those valuable breaks in the day so much more rewarding and fun.
VIDEO: 7 Joys Of Having A Work BFF
A Match Made in Office Heaven
It’s all well and good knowing that close work friendships are good for us - but how on earth do we go about making new friends?
When you’re new, it’s a bit easier to make friends as you get introduced to everyone, people generally make an effort to help you settle in and usually you’re at that wide-eyed, excitable stage of office life which makes you more sociable.
But when you’ve already been at the company for a few years and potentially become a little less sociable and a lot more cynical, it can be difficult to suddenly start forging new friendships.
You may even feel like you’ve met everyone already and none of them are really your cup of tea. But sometimes, we make the wrong judgements on our colleagues, especially because often we see the work version of each other in the first instance rather than the real life version.
You may have butted heads with Sandy that one time you had to work together on a project, but that could have been more to do with the project, the power dynamics at play and general workplace pressure than your personalities.
Give Sandy another chance in a less pressured environment, like having lunch together, and you could find that you actually get along like peanut butter and jelly.
Regardless of how long you’ve been at your company, it’s never too late to start making new friends. There are loads of ways you can find and nurture new relationships at work.
Find Your Tribe
The people you’ll gel with most are those who have similar interests to you.
These days, with so many social activities and groups in every office, it’s much easier to find those people. Some ideas are:
1) Join an activity
Whether it’s a chess team or a movie club, find out what activities are available at your office and join the ones which interest you the most.
2) Join Social Committees Or Teams
Most offices will have committees of people who do things like organize social activities or look after the company’s charitable and volunteering events.
If that’s your kind of thing, see if you can join one of these.
3) Join Informal Groups
Whether through group email distro or your work instant messenger, most offices have more informal groups built around common interests.
There might be a foodies group who go out to eat every month, a bi-weekly golf outing or a wine and cheese club.
Pay attention to conversations with your colleagues and if one of these groups share a common interest as you, share your enthusiasm, expertise and/or knowledge and you’ll be roped in fast.
4) Make Your Own
If you don’t find any groups that fit with your interests, create your own!
With a simple all staff email you can suddenly find yourself leading a new book club, poker night or running group.
Nurture Your Friendships
Once you have some like-minded friends in the office, it’s important that you build on those connections in order to create a true support system.
There’s a big difference between being friendly with a co-worker and being actual friends, and - as with any relationship - it takes a little bit of effort and intention to build a true friendship.
1) Make Time To Bond
It’s easy to fall into the habit of only seeing your work friends during your committee meetings or team functions for example.
But to really bond with them, it’s important to spend some extra time together, not doing whatever activity it is that initially brought you together.
If you tend to pack lunch, change things up and grab lunch together away from the office. Suggest drinks after work one Friday. Take your friendship beyond the office - literally!
2) Get Some 1-on-1 Time
You always build deeper bonds with people by spending quality time together, so instead of always hanging out in a group, try to get some one-on-one time with each of your work friends.
Be careful not to do this in a way that excludes others though. Maybe you take a quick coffee break with one of your friends who sits on the same floor as you, or grab breakfast with one of your friends who likes to get into the office early like you.
3) Don’t Clock Off & Disappear
Just because you’re “work friends” with someone, that doesn’t mean that your friendship only operates between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Stay in contact with your friends on evenings and weekends. It doesn’t have to be constant texting but by becoming friends on social media or sharing a message on the group text at the weekend, you’re extending your friendship beyond the constraints of the working day.
4) Be Open
If you’re looking for a true support system rather than just friends, you can go for an after-work beer or a light bite. It’s important that you share some of the real stuff.
Be honest about things like what’s stressing you out, what your dreams and goals are, and what’s going on in your personal life. You don’t have to go super deep - it could be as simple as sharing the woes of your property hunt or the joys of wedding planning.
The more you can open up and be honest about things other than work, the more your friends will do the same.
And when they do open up...
5) Be Supportive
Friendships should be all about give and take. You can’t build a support system without being supportive yourself. It’s a two-way street.
Offer a shoulder to cry on when your friend needs it. Ask what you can do to help when you notice they’re not quite themselves. Check in on them when you know they’re having a difficult time.
In short, be the friend that you would like to have on your team.
If you look after your friendships, you’ll find yourself with a work BFF (or two!) before you can say Paris and Nicole.
How To Lose Friends & Alienate People
When it comes to building friendships in the office, it’s not just about what you can do, it’s also about what not to do.
Especially in an environment where you see the same people day in and day out, there’s real potential for drama and negative vibes - and we don’t want any of that!
On your quest to build your office support system, keep these tips in mind.
1) Be Careful Who You Open Up To
While it is important to open up in order to develop your friendships, be wary of who you open up to.
Make sure that you’ve built a certain level of trust with your work friends before you start to share more personal details.
Some people love to gossip and others simply may not understand you. The only thing worse than keeping challenges and difficulties to yourself is sharing them with the wrong people and ending up feeling worse.
2) Don’t Overshare
Even when you have built a close bond with someone and you trust them, remember that they are still a work friend.
Don’t share anything that could potentially cause issues in your working relationship or could backfire on you in the office.
For example, if you’re starting to look for a new job, keep it to yourself and don’t share that with your work friends, unless they are truly BFFs. Even then, we’d still be wary about our job seeking activity.
3) Don’t Get Cliquey
Once you’ve built some good bonds, you’ll probably spend a lot of your time at work with these friends - and rightly so!
But be careful not to come across as cliquey.
Not only is that a surefire way to alienate others, it will also affect your reputation within the company, making you seem unprofessional and unlikable.
4) Don’t Gossip
A friendship built on bitching about others is no friendship at all.
It’s best to avoid bad gossip in the workplace. It only makes work life more miserable. So, don’t talk trash about your colleagues behind their backs. And remember, anyone who gossips to you will gossip about you.
5) Don’t Get In With A Bad Crowd
We hate to sound like your parents but try not to fall in with the wrong crowd.
You know the ones we mean!
Every office has them. They stroll into to work late, talk too loudly in the office, everyone wonders what they actually do all day and one of them is probably the big boss’s entitled nephew.
Even if you’re the complete opposite and a huge asset to the company, by hanging out with them, you’ll be bad by association.
So be mindful of who you choose to spend your time with and what image it gives the powers that be.
Work BFFs = Work Happiness
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking work is just for work, and you don’t need any new friends. Or that you should keep your work life and personal life totally separate.
But making friends at work will have a real positive impact on your wellbeing. It’ll be like hanging out with good friends that get you to laugh and smile amid the Excel and Powerpoint frustrations.
You will enjoy work more, be better at your job, and - most importantly - you’ll have a support system in place for when things become a little more challenging.
Having one or two really close friends at work - i.e. work BFFs - is a great way to ensure you don’t feel lonely at work and you have a network of people you trust.
But equally, being a good friend to them is great for your wellbeing too! When we help others, it actually boosts our mood and gives us purpose.
Whether you are new to a company or you’ve been there for decades, try a tip or two. It may help you to forge new and lasting friendships with the right people.
And who knows, you may even turn your work BFFs into real life BFFs in years to come!