In Praise of Work Friends
This article is part of our Post Grad Survival Guide for the recent grads out there that we’ll be rolling out this summer. Join our email list to follow along all summer and email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to guest write.
Lately, in the lexicon of public thought and discourse, I have started to see a troubling trend emerge around a topic I hold dear to me – work friends. It seems that during a year and a half of working remote, we’ve started to forget the value of befriending the people you spend 8-9 hours a day with. A recent study showed that 1 in 10 people don’t have a single friend at work and more than half have fewer than 5 friends at the office. Admittedly, some people are losers for sure, but it also seems like some of you just aren’t trying. You don’t even want to make work friends and that makes me sick to my stomach.
Work friends are a saving grace in the hell hole of monotony and unnecessary stress that is corporate life. If there’s one thing I can tell the new grads starting their first jobs (or really anyone in any job) it’s to focus on your relationships and befriend your coworkers.
The Joy of Work Friends
Why Should I Be Friends With My Coworkers?
First off, as an adult there are realistically very few opportunities to make friends with people. That’s basically the entire premise of the movie I Love You Man. Work if one of the only places you can make some friends unless you have a “hobby” which sounds tiring and a little lame.
Here are some other reasons why.
1. You Naturally Have a Lot in Common
I know you think your coworkers are morons who only exist on this planet to annoy you, but hear me out. Most likely, you have the following things in common with your coworkers (relatively speaking of course):
- You went to a better (and more expensive) college than them, but guess what? You guys are at the same exact place right now. So your student loans or parent’s money was definitely not worth it sorry pal. Come to terms with that now.
- Income level
- This is huge. There’s nothing worse than being the rich friend or the poor friend in your group. You’re either buying everyone’s drinks or stressing out about splitting the bill at an expensive restaurant everyone wanted to go to. With your work friends, unless you’re hanging out with your VP, everyone is on a level playing field.
- Approach to life
- You’ve both decided to give up on your dreams and work for a massive corporation and that’s ok.
And most importantly – you know tons of the same people (your other coworkers) who you can talk shit about. Win-win.
2. You’re Spending 60% of Your Waking Hours At Work
Like it or not, you spend 8-9 hours a day at work during the week, and even more if you’re commuting. That doesn’t leave a ton of time for other stuff like working out, errands, and trying to be engaging over text with a complete stranger on a dating app. Life is exhausting and you most likely don’t have time or energy to socialize outside of work as often as you’d like.
So why not maximize the time you spend at work and make some fucking friends? A study by Harvard Business School (small little college in Cambridge, Mass) showed that people who have a work best friend are seven times as likely to be happier and healthier at their job. Thanks Harvard, but no fucking shit. I could have told you that being close with the people you spend time with makes you feel better.
3. It’ll Make Your Job Easier
This is true whether you love your job or think about quitting every second of the day.
If you love your job, having people like you will just make life easier. They’re more likely to do favors for you, cover for you if you mess up, and make sure you’re included in important projects or meetings that you might not otherwise be.
On the flip side, there’s nothing makes a shitty job better than having people to bitch about it with. Some of my fondest memories at jobs I hate have come from booking off a conference room with a few work friends for a fake meeting just to vent and talk shit about horrible bosses.
Either way, having people who you can sit and shoot the shit with for a little bit too long during lunch gives you that much needed break from all the mediocre work you’ve been pretending to do all day.
How Close Should I Be With My Work Friends?
In general, there are three types of work friends.
1. Actual Friends
Your friend who you just happen to work with. You hang out outside of work, they’ve met your other actual friends and significant others, and most importantly, you rarely talk about work or work people. They’ve seen you do drugs before. Your job sucks but at least it brought you a close friend who you subletted from for 3 months and might even be in your wedding party. They’re the one organizing your going away happy hour when you finally quit and while you’re sad to leave them, you know you’ll hang out pretty much every weekend anyways.
2. Only-at-Work Friends
You guys are tight. You get lunch 2-3 times a day, Slack each other nonstop, play on the same company softball team and get shitfaced on work trips together. But you both kind of understand, without anything being said, that this is just sort of a work thing. You both pray to god that the other doesn’t invite you to hang out this weekend, so you don’t have to make an excuse or realize that you only can talk about work stuff if you do grab a drink. And it’s totally ok. You’re both using each other to get through work and that’s fine.
Sidenote – when these people leave for a new job, it’s shocking how quickly you fall out of touch. You used to talk literally every single day and now they’re posting an Instagram of them with a new girlfriend that you’ve never heard of. Do you text them about it or is that weird?
3. People You Think Are Cool
They seem nice, cool and fun. You’ve always had a good time with them at happy hours, you have a few inside jokes from projects you’ve worked on together, and it was pretty fun that one time you ran into them at bar down the shore. But for whatever reason, your paths didn’t really cross that much and you never got that tight. That’s ok. They’re invited to your going away happy hour – they might come if they have nothing going on but if they don’t, that’s fine too.
Points of Caution for Work Friends
1. You Need Friends Outside the Office
There can at times be the tendency for people to exclusively have friends from work. This is especially prevalent when people move to a new city right out of college and work for a big company with a ton of other young new hires. Don’t do this.
It’s great to have work friends, but at a certain point, you need a bit of a break.
2. Be Wary of the Boss-Employee Friendship
Don’t be best friends with your boss or with your employee if you’re a boss. It’s just weird. No one wants to come down on their friend for not sending out the report on time. No one wants to hear their boss talk about their love life. Have some level of professionalism for God’s sake.