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For a healthy mind, body and business

Five tips to navigate remote work friendships when working from home

woman talking to friend when working from home
Los Muertos Crew, Pexels


Who said you can’t have any fun while you’re working? Having a friend at work is a great way to strengthen your mental health, and even boost productivity. According to a Gallup Poll, only two in ten US employees have someone they consider a best friend at work, yet the poll shows it improves many business outcomes such as employee retention, job satisfaction, and an increase in recommending their place of work. All of these are becoming increasingly essential in the age of working from home. Work friendships when working from home may now include people in different continents and timezones. While our commutes have become shorter, our scope for friendships has gone global.

Working remotely can increase our feelings of loneliness, so with all the proven benefits of a work ‘bestie’, here are some ways to forge fulfilling workplace friendships when working from home.

Open up about yourself to find commonalities

When you make friends, you want them to get to know the real you — not the one they see in
office chats.

As you discover more about another person, you’ll learn how to build trust with them. Trusting someone involves learning how to communicate in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable and respected.

Friendships can build off the smallest things — it may begin with work-related conversations where you share similar opinions or experiences. These conversations will evolve so you talk about subjects outside of work. You may begin to feel happier disclosing information about your hobbies, interests, or family life. These are the issues that can really start a firm bond and meaningful connections.

You might not have much time to talk with someone if you can only speak for a few minutes each day, but patience is the name of the game — lasting friendships take time.

Try to build in time to have social chats before or at the close of a meeting. Schedule the occasional coffee break together over video, and as you begin to get to know each other, you will start to open up more. You might even think of something you can do together over video chats.

Connect via social media

If you connect via social media, you’ll have a way to chat with co-workers out of hours. If you’re in the same area, you may even get the chance to meet up. Around seven in 10 people connect via social media. According to Statista, 60% of the world’s population use social media and millions more come online each month.

Sharing your profile and accepting friend requests can be a good way to get to know more about your co-workers if you feel comfortable doing so. If you share photos and tag them in communal pictures or events, you start to build the connections. You can also use social media to find an an in-person or virtual event both of you can attend.

Online groups and communities can be really helpful in forging work friendships when working from home. You can connect with people with similar interests and in similar industries, people you may otherwise not have met.

Alternatively, your job might have a designated social media platform where you can communicate with your co-workers. Strike up a conversation with someone via the group Slack or other communication channels.

While we all need to be careful on social media, it can prove a helpful lifeline for non work-related conversations, and keeping in touch outside of working hours.

group of remote work friends on steps outside
Buro Millennial, Pexels

Intentionally plan time for friendships

When you work remotely, it takes effort to juggle a work-life balance. That quick final email becomes ten — before you know it, another hour is gone. Giving yourself strong boundaries can really help free you up to enjoy more of life outside of work.

Depression and burnout are at all-time highs across most professions. Spending time with people is essential — even if you have to assign it as an item on your to-do list. Without the more impromptu meetings you might have in-person in an office, you have to start being proactive in nurturing your friendships.

Blocking out time in a planner and intentionally scheduling time for your friendships can help ensure you commit to seeing other people. Whether it is a virtual coffee date, a joint workout, or a catch up in your lunch hour, make a plan and stick to it. It can help you get to know your co-workers better and show you the brighter side of the workplace.

Be genuine and free with compliments

Compliments make people feel confident and you never know when someone could use a little boost. You should offer genuine compliments to people whenever you can. The crucial part of this practice is being honest — people can easily see through baseless flattery.

It might be difficult to spot a few things you can use as compliments while working remotely. However, you could pay attention to your team’s communication throughout the day and notice any exceptional work that also lightened your workload. Shout out your co-worker in a group chat and thank them for a swift save on an important project, or compliment them for always completing their work quickly or on time. They also may have shared something insightful that changed how you look at a topic.

Find something you can point out and praise them for and how it positively impacted your life. A compliment might just brighten their day and encourage them to perform better at work.

Genuine compliments can make someone feel good — they make you feel good, too. You might even build a friendship based on the kind words you offer one another. Showing empathy and fostering a more thoughtful environment might make for a more productive workplace, too.

See each other outside of work

It can be easy to nurture a surface-level friendships when working from home, but that doesn’t mean it will become a lasting and meaningful relationship. If you resign from your position tomorrow, would you want to talk to your workplace friends again? If the answer is no, it might indicate a need to get to know them outside of a work environment or scenario.

You might have a lot in common with your team or colleagues that you can explore beyond your virtual office. Look for opportunities to meet up in-person, or online, that give you a chance to develop the friendship. A dinner, a virtual coffee, a walk and talk, or a post-work drink — all get you both out of the work headspace.

Solidifying a friendship outside of work helps you to build on it within working hours. Having somebody you can trust, who you can rely on, and confide in, makes work an easier and more fulfilling experience.


About the author

Mia Barnes is a health freelance writer and researcher with a passion for workplace wellness and mental wellbeing. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Body+Mind magazine, an online healthy living publication.

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