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How to make work friends when you work from home

You don’t need to be friends with everyone on your virtual team, but it’s helpful to have some solid rapport with your team members.

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Image: Zoom

For those who work in a physical office, friendships and connections with coworkers form naturally. But for those of us who work from home, it’s not as easy to forge meaningful relationships. Is there a way?

Why Work Friends Matter

It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or extrovert, you have lots of friends outside of work or you keep a small circle of people in your life – there’s tremendous value in having work friends. Here are some reasons why:

  • People who have work friends are 27 percent more likely to report that their company makes them feel as if their job is important. 
  • NASA has discovered that fatigued crews with experience make fewer errors when placed under pressure when compared to teams that lack familiarity and personal bonds.
  • Employees who have best friends at work are 7x more likely to feel engaged in their job.
  • Conversation with other humans is beneficial. Studies show that the brain actually secretes oxytocin during these discussions, which supports the brain’s serotonin – a neurotransmitter responsible for influencing positive emotions and good moods.
  • Americans report being happiest on days where they’re able to socialize for 6 to 7 hours.

Making Work Friends: 3 Tips for Remote Workers

Making work friends is obviously much easier and more natural when you’re rubbing shoulders with people in a physical office setting. However, you don’t need an office to make workplace companions. Virtual teams and remote workers can do it, too. Here are some suggestions to help you make moves:

Use a Digital Workplace Platform

Every office has that one area where people congregate together and chat. Traditionally, it’s been called the “water cooler.” Whether it’s actually a water cooler doesn’t really matter. Sometimes it’s a break room, lobby, game room, or outside area. But when you work remotely, these physical spaces don’t exist. So you have to make do with the options you have. 

One option is to use a digital workplace platform (also known as a social intranet). Happeo is one great option. It actually works with G Suite to create a unified hub for remote teamwork. With channels, pages, discussion boards, and project management features, it’s like your own virtual water cooler.

Try Video Chat

There’s nothing that replaces being able to see your coworkers’ faces. And when you can’t be together in person, video is the next-best medium.

Video chat – whether it’s through FaceTime or some other dedicated software for virtual meetings – helps you put voices to faces and faces to names. Even if it’s just 10 or 15 minutes per day, chatting with coworkers is an effective way to build camaraderie and cultivate friendships. 

Try Virtual Bonding Activities

People typically bond over activities or common interests first. This bonding leads to trust and vulnerability, which is where friendships are formed. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to bond over virtual activities. Here are some ideas:

  • Weekly coffee and learn sessions. One company uses weekly “coffee and learn” sessions where the team comes together for 15 minutes over coffee to learn something new. The sessions are held via video chat and one team member is tasked with teaching a topic. Typically it’s a work-related task – like how to be more productive with email inbox management – but it could also be something totally unrelated. Perhaps your team could use it as an opportunity to teach something related to a hobby or personal interest – like cooking or woodworking.
  • Random lunch pairings. There’s something powerful about having a conversation over food. Even if you can’t physically go to lunch with your coworkers, consider setting up random lunch pairings where you eat lunch at your desk with your webcam on. Try eating lunch with a different coworker each time. Within a few weeks, you’ll have a personal connection with everyone on the team.
  • Google Doc lists. Set up a Google Doc with a fun topic like “Favorite Local Restaurants” or “Best Shows You’ve Binged This Year.” Give everyone the ability to add to the list and use this as a conversation starter during meetings.

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

You don’t need to be friends with everyone on your virtual team, but it’s helpful to have some solid rapport with your team members. And a couple of close work friends will certainly help your cause. Are you willing to put forth the effort and lead the charge?

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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